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CITIZEN DAVE

Citizen Dave: Singles and the city


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More of us are living alone than ever before, and that has interesting implications for city life.

The most recent census data shows that one in four American households consist of only one person. But in cities the percentage is much higher. Half of all New York households are households of one, and places like Denver and San Francisco have similar numbers.

It turns out that singles are good for cities and cities are good for singles. Because single people still like to interact with others, they tend to spend more time in "third places," which are locations like coffee shops, bars, museums and cafes that are neither home nor work places. And they tend to be joiners. They join book clubs, knitting circles, bands, you name it.

As David Brooks wrote in his column the other day:

In Going Solo, (Eric) Klinenberg (a sociology professor at New York University) nicely shows that people who live alone are more likely to visit friends and join social groups. They are more likely to congregate in and create active, dynamic cities.

So singles enliven cities, but when you think about it, cities are good for the single life in return. Being single in a remote rural hamlet or in a large-lot subdivision would offer far fewer opportunities to mix it up with others. It would be very, very isolating and if that's what you're into, that's fine.

But most of us don't want to live in monasteries. Most of us like some of both worlds -- chances to see and interact with other people and time to be alone. Cities, by their very nature, give us options. So, it could be that, in cities, one is not the loneliest number after all.

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