Millions of American adults are living alone these days, according to a new Census Bureau report.
The report, released Thursday, shows the ranks of those living alone jumped from 40.3 million to 47.3 million between 2000 and 2016 — about 33% of the population in both 2016 and 2000.
That’s about 17% more than in 1980, the last time the bureau tracked this number.
“It’s a numbers story, not a person story,” Kate Yoder, a senior analyst at the Population Reference Bureau, said.
But what’s the story behind this trend?
Yoder said the growth of the U.S. elderly population has a lot to do with this statistic.
“It’s just the reality of the retiree that tends to be the mom and dad in the household,” she said. “It’s the person who retired at 50 and isn’t doing anything that we generally think of in that household.”
Of those age 65 and older, 43.7 million had no spouse living with them in 2016, up from 30.9 million in 2000. It was the first time more than half of that age group in that age group had no spouse.
The rate of people who have never married has been steadily growing, too. In 2016, 18.6% of Americans ages 15 or older were never married, up from 11.9% in 1970.
This suggests that more married people are finding themselves without spouses, especially with the rise of cohabitation.
“There’s been sort of an emerging view that this isn’t the overwhelming trend of divorce, and this actually represents people who have moved in together and never thought to get married,” Yoder said.
As for the United States’ growing number of unmarried adults, Yoder believes this could be a concern going forward.
“Having more unmarried adults living alone or the rise in single-person households should have implications for future policy discussions about budget issues, children, housing, how we think about child care in different places in the United States,” she said.
When you exclude those who are married or in a cohabiting relationship, there is still an increase in the total number of adults living alone, from 33.4 million in 2000 to 37.5 million in 2016.