tv Book TV After Words CSPAN February 12, 2012 9:00pm-10:00pm EST
seems on and can talk about body surfing or whatever seems on and can talk about body surfing or whatever seems on some kind as humorless demon. then we talked about why those stereotypes exist. >> and finally, when revenge of the women's studies? >> i am so not a vengeful, by a person. >> well, when i first started thinking, i wanted to talk about all of these issues. why are students afraid of taking women's studies? vitae some faculty advisors discourage students or their parents say you shouldn't take this class is? they worry about 15 turning point in my own career were people had been rude or shaming in ways that all summed up this is in a field?
them s.a. to veto essay and that is the way of getting the and sold out of the body and into public literature. so there is that saying that the dish best eaten cold there is a waiting period you think about how you want to top that but in a reflective and thoughtful way that will convince people what you want to say, and so revenged. here i am i going to tell you what happened as i try to become a be the good professor and how i got to all of the belittling that happens to such a person, and i'm going to meet you laugh but i am also going to have the last word and that is the only reason shy really want to show the stereotypes are funny that they can hurt and a student should never be discouraged from
looking at the history of their mother. >> region of the women's studies professor, a professor here at georgetown and at george washington university is the author. coming out of very shortly probably by the time this interview airs the book will be held. women's history for beginners. >> that's right. that book number eight and it's coming to be out on the the 14th of february, valentine's day. that is a good introductory textbook which starts with the first woman and goes from there. that's part of the whole series from the beginners press economics for beginners, einstein for beginners, so it begins with why don't we know more about women's history. who is interested in your not going to the economy and then it goes through the walking tour and not so famous women and lots
of resources. i have a wonderful illustrator, and that is intended i hope for high school as well as college classrooms. and again a cheerful approach to women's history in a way that should not intimidate but instruct to reduce the liquid is this illustration in your book? >> the illustration where women have been kicked out of public life because a woman out alone in public is assumed to be somehow unchaste and one reason we don't know about women's accomplishments is a good girl is not supposed to be known by anyone but her male relatives. there's a lot about the emphasis in scripture that women be hidden from other men. very hard to become famous if
that is equated with a modesty bonnie more is professor georgetown, thank you. >> thank you. >> coming up next, booktv present afterwards mack, an hourlong program where we invite guest hosts to interview authors. this week sociologist eric klinenberg in his book going solo the extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone. mr. klinenberg analyzes the impact the trend has on business, politics and culture and predicts significant social change for the country as a result. he talks with cecile was just kim bling digit director of american university's center on health, risk and society. >> host: how did you first get interested in the topic and then how did you decide how to go about looking at?
>> guest: the first book i wrote was about a heat wave in chicago where more than 700 people died in just a few days, and one of the really disturbing things about the project is i learned hundreds of people died alone, and because so many people in chicago were living alone and aging alone and when that book was over i realized i learned about something i hadn't expected to fight and then i have a lot more to learn. so a research foundation reached out to me and asked me if i would be interested in pursuing that question further. why were so many people aging alone and getting isolated? and i started looking at social isolation as a problem but quickly discovered that many people who were living alone only a small minority get isolated and while that is a serious social problem there is a whole other world to explore. i came to consider it to be perhaps the biggest demographic
change since the baby boom. for the first time in all of history we now live in a world where there are enormous numbers of people who are living alone and for long periods of time and once i started working on that i was off and running. >> host: i was telling friends of mine i was going to be interviewing you for the look -- book and talking to them i realized i wasn't quite sure how we were defining living alone. for example, my sister is divorced and half the time she lives with her son and have the time she doesn't. am i living alone? >> for the purpose of this book hopefully she can relate to the story but she wouldn't statistical account. and i didn't interview her. so the people like count as living alone are people who are just living alone, not with
children. and i should give you a sense of the numbers because they are startling and i have no idea how common this is before i started the research. today in the united states 32 million people living alone and they account for one in every seven adults and 28% of all households combined just to give you a sense of how big this is. in 1950 only about 4 million americans were living alone and they were under 10% of all households so it's been an incredible social change. in the 1950's people who live alone tended to live in the western states because of the areas like wyoming or montana. they are largely men and they were migrant workers who would eventually move into the more stable relationships. today the overwhelming majority of people are living alone in cities in atlanta and denver,
minneapolis, more than 7% of all households are one-person households, households without children. and in washington, d.c. where we are right now and in manhattan where i live it is almost 50% of all households. these are enormous changes. when i started the book i thought this must be an american story. this is about a country that worships the self-reliance and individualism and is the legacy of emmerson but it turns out that we are ladders when it comes to living alone and that is in fact much more common and scandinavia and it's even more common in japan. >> host: thinking about the international dimension, i thought was interesting that you are saying that made the point in the book that living alone is occurring in other places and the sort of context of living
alone is different between those in the countries in some ways and i was struck by the northern european example and the society is different. >> guest: one of the things i learned is that in order to have the freedom to choose to live alone in order to be independent you need to be really well connected and strongly supported. so it turns out that people live alone not simply in places they can afford to but also in countries that have invested collectively in producing a kind of society that puts forth individualism and this is a surprise what we think of as the scandinavian countries we think of as the socialist policies were big welfare states or the collective more than i think we typically do the individual. but it turns out that when you produce collective resources, and that can be as the welfare state social programs but it can
also be the booming cities as collective resources that have good things to offer to people you allow individuals to make choices about how they want to live. >> i will pick up on that in a little bit but i want to ask about the diversity of experience of living alone in the united states. >> guest: there isn't just one thing called living alone and everyone has the same experience. in fact there are at least three age groups we should break out here. conventionally when we think about living on low we think about older people 65 and above and today in the united states there are 11 million. the face the greatest risk of isolation, and i started this project with concern about them based on my research in the heat wave book but one of the really surprising things i learned in the course of talking to so many of the people is that today unlike 75 years ago, older
people prefer living alone to the available option. they don't want to move back in with their children, they don't want to live with a selangor a friend and they certainly want to avoid a nursing home, so in the abstract they might prefer to have this house they no longer have whether it is for divorce or death. but in country terms they are acting to live alone and in many places the sense of integrity and that they are able to live the kind of life they want to live because the county care of themself depends on the capacity to live alone. that is one group. it turns out the biggest group of people live alone or middle-aged adults between the ages of 35 to 65. most of the time these are people who have lived with someone else before. they are generally people who have been married before but we all know that divorce is quite common in the contemporary world and there are millions of people that live alone in this age
group and many of them live alone because they decided that in fact they are better off staying on their own and being quite social than searching out a relationship that's the long relationship to say they won't settle for the long relationship and that is another change here. they are not living the life the expected to live but they're finding a way to make it work and then finally the fact that it is growing group of people living alone are young adults under the age of 35, more than 5 million people living like that today. whereas in 1950 there are 500,000 in proportional terms it went from 1% of people under 30 living alone in 1950 to more than 10% today. >> host: so they're seems to be -- let's put aside the elderly group because there is a lot of class variation with in that age range. but for the middle class i think for the younger groups and the
middle-aged as you call them, those are basically by definition middle class. >> guest: line clear about this in the book it's expensive to live alone. you have to pay for that privilege. that's why you find it in more affluent nations and very little of it in the impoverished nations of the world. the same is true when you come home to the united states. it's far more common among the middle class and the affluent so the great majority of the interviews are people who could afford it. with that said there's a small subset of people who are living alone under tougher conditions. in the dwellings that we still have in the hotel residencies. for them living alone is often the way to to spend themselves or protect themselves against the influences of people or places that once got them into
trouble and we spent a lot of time talking to them and it is a very different experience. there are also people aging alone who are vulnerable and we can talk about them later. >> host: how did you decide -- did you pick this as a place to find these people or is that the only place that you could find the marginalize class is? >> guest: they are places you could find them in a concentrated fashion and living alone and so on, and in the impoverished neighborhoods as unaffordable. it would be hard to do it. and furthermore i think that these are places that still exist in american cities and don't get the kind of attention that the desert. they are places of concentrated vulnerability. so i first got to know them and i spent a lot of time in the sro and i wanted to see what had happened. interestingly i learned from spending time in places like this in new york that there were a lot of creative people with
architecture and urban planning who were thinking about what kind of physical designs could help them live alone but also be better connected with each other and some of them are working on the hotel residency's but also people who are working on the middle class residencies for older people as well. one of the questions for me is how might we think about this differently if we gave up on the constant lament that this is a sign of the social breakdown in the community and instead accept the reality that in the united states as in many countries in the world living alone has become quite common and then start to ask what are things we can do to make it a more collective experience? >> what about picking up the class on the dimension talk a little bit about the gender because that is something else on the one hand in the poor group there seems to be if your book is and the people that you entered you are any indication there's not very many women,
poor women living alone except perhaps the older probably at the lower age range, and you said that in the middle class it's more women than men. >> guest: the way i break it down is of the 42 million americans living alone about 18 million more women and 14 million our men. the driver of the difference is the fact that women are likely to outlive their spouses. they live longer than men so as to get to the older end of the distribution, you have far more women than men. the surprise what many people, myself included is under the age of 45 men are more likely to live alone than women are. so it is a mixed story. when it comes to class, it's interesting. men who live alone on average are likely to earn more than women who live alone for the reasons we expect the tend to do better in the labour market there is discrimination there.
but interestingly in the recent years women who live alone have actually become far more likely to buy their own home, the segment of the real-estate market. so there are some interesting things have and that cannot simply be explained by economics. >> host: why were you surprised that it was mostly men that were living alone? >> guest: under the age of 45? tuzee conversation that you have in the inner cities with a lot of other women talking about how difficult it is to find a single men. it is as if they don't exist. it's possible that the exist but there are other reasons that make them difficult. for instance, one of the issues that's fascinating for me about the gender division is that man we interviewed expressed a very little concern about living alone and staying single as they go into the late thirties and early 40's even if they wanted to settle down they felt like they could do that eventually, if they wanted to have kids they
felt like they could do that eventually. and man who live today in this kind of highly individualized economy in which there's a lot of insecurity and instability and a great incentive to invest in yourself and build your career, ambitious men are often doing precisely this. they are putting off making commitments to other people while they invest in themselves. the women of course it is a much more difficult situation because they face the reality of the biological clock and so many women who live alone through their twenties and early thirties and lived alone as -- because it is an accomplishment, live alone because it is a sign of distinction, because they strongly prefer if living with roommates or a partner they've really don't want to deal with. by the time they get into the mid-30s and been through their early 40's that becomes a very difficult thing because they start to feel the taking of the biological clock, they hear it and pressure from their families, from friends and
people start approaching them and the first question will become so, are you dating anybody, have you met anybody? it is as if that is what defines them cut and that makes it a much more difficult experience. >> host: so there's definitely -- even the title, the surprising appeal of living alone, there's a lot of variation and the extent to which there is that appeal. >> guest: so, that's right. i want to be clear about something. my argument here is not that people in the abstract today. what i want in life is to live alone and that cycle and we generally don't find that. for some people that's true but that's not what i'm saying. i'm saying something all. we live in a world where people cycle in and of of different situations. they live alone for some time and pretend to couple up whether they get married or not and then they might split up and be on their own. we move in and out of these different conditions coming and going so low is no longer just a
passing stage, something we often spend much of our time doing. but there's another thing here which i want to emphasize and that is if you are not living with a romantic partner, you still have other choices about how to live. historically, you never would have lived in a place of your own until the 1950's and 60's that was an average unusual experience. you wouldn't have lived within the family, possible you would have lived with friends, you would have lived with some group of some kind. as a species we've 200,000 years of experience living collectively and then about 50 or 60 years of experience living alone and so people who are doing this are opting for that instead of these other collective arrangements and they are also paying a premium to do that. it costs more to live alone. >> host: that is one of the interesting things that seemed for the middle class living alone is a sign of economic success and also to some extent the type of jobs that people
have come and you emphasized that, to back the way that work basically makes maintaining a relationship at least professional work maintaining the relationship, children, challenging. >> guest: we have a terrific writer that wrote a book in which argued we live in the world that for many people home is work and work is home. many of the people are working in places where they have a lot of social ties, they have a chance to connect with friends. they do things outside of work with people they are working with and when they go home, if they live with others or when they live with others they find they have a lot of obligations and commitments, so that idea is very much president. >> host: whereas for the man in the sro, to some extent
living alone is an economic failure in the ability to, you know, make money or get a job getting wrapped up in the criminal-justice system. >> guest: we have another pronounces theologist julieanna willson who talks about the unmanageable mail and very hard times for men who once had access to good solid working-class jobs the word durable and reliable and have increasingly found that they are not there anymore and have had all sorts of trouble. there is research that shows the people that are very likely to wind up living alone are successfully african-american women who just lost the eligible marriage partners for economic reasons or because so many african-american men have been swept into the dragnet of the criminal justice system and clearly that is the situation in which when we talk about it being a choice it is a constraint choice to live alone.
but all of our choices are constrained, and here even for people in the situation living alone is something that wouldn't have been possible and it's now quite prevalent. >> host: i was going to ask you about the african-american women, because you said i think somewhere you said you had over sampled for african-american women to try to get their experiences and how -- but you didn't talk too much about that. were there other things that stood out about the experiences? >> guest: this is just a situation that i think people wonder whether this is a sign of peace to come. if you think about the conversations we have been having over the last year about the state of marriage and the rise of single women and the atlantic on the end of men and everyone is talking it for months and another cover story on the rise of the single women this is a phenomena many people have grown concerned about with
the top economy, and the kind of declining levels of men in universities and relative difficulties in the labour market many critics are starting to worry that there will be hard to find the right partnerships between women and men and no group has experienced this more than african-american women. so, my thinking is we could really learn something from their experience. >> host: and what did you learn? >> guest: this is a hard situation. in some ways it is very specific to the part of the population that suffers from the kind of racial discrimination and the relationships, african-american women are far less likely to marry outside of their ethnic or racial groups and people with other situations so there are some things that the carless transferrable. but there are women who are looking for the right partner, finding it very hard to find it
and then saying i'm going to start my life. i'm not going to wait around any longer for mr. right before i embrace my adulthood and do my thing and there are people who are entering into the housing market and buying their own places. that is something we see increasingly just saying there can be life without mr. right. i don't have to wait for mr. wright and that is changing the way we settle into our homes >> host: what about the issue of sexual of the? you don't really talk about that but those that come up? i'm thinking there is a group, same-sex couples, gay and lesbian, and basically at a minimum i would imagine that living alone means something different for them, so i have maybe from ten years ago or whatever, lesbian friends who had to pretend that if they were
living with someone they pretended that they were roommates or whatever and it kind of changed the nature of what living together was and they were sort of money will to live together in a romantic relationship. >> guest: we are seeing a rise in marriage and this is one of the movements of our time. it's a credible phenomenon. at the same time, i have a long discussion in my book about the fact that gay men and lesbian women have foreigners for this trend they pioneered the process of living alone in cities and living alone not in a solitary way but living in a connected way going to specific neighborhoods and building very local the institutions that allow people to live on their own but also to establish connections and get the kind of support that we'll need to live good lives. so at the same time we see gays and lesbians clamoring for marriage which is an issue about
the equal treatment we also see a lot of them living on their own. they are not immune from these trends and some of the drivers of the. one thing that is fascinating to me i spent time in the book tracing the history of the rise because it is this kind of new phenomena and you can see it in specific places. the neighborhood i live in greenwich village and new york city were in many of the neighborhoods that we now associate with singles culture war lake view lincoln park in chicago or belt, and chicago were west hollywood and the los angeles in the marina district in san francisco there is a whole kind of urban culture that's built up around neighborhoods where people who are alone go to be together for some period of time they might have a partner. many of them will have partners the rest of their lives but they are places where being alone can be a collective experience.
>> host: so, you talk about the social problem and people sort of start with the idea this is a social problem people connect and argue that that is not necessarily the case. and i think it is interesting to think about how paca you make this point, too that it's really this is a living arrangement that people choose among the choice constraints and so some come to some extent it's choosing to live alone and choosing not to live in that arrangement that is otherwise available to people, and i just wonder do you see it as being more of one thing in the other?
>> i don't know how to answer a question of the more than one thing and another. i think the reality is that we live in a world which a lot of things that we took for granted was the families are now up for grabs and we are trying to experiment with new ways of putting our lives together. it's not that marriage is over as an institution. more than 90% of americans will ultimately marry at least one time in their life. marriage is not over but we move in and out of marriage in a way that is unusual. what is clear is that there is far less social pressure for people to get married and stay married and to remarry over the course of their lives. it's far more acceptable today to stay single leader and after a divorce or to stay single and lives alone after your spouse dies than it ever has been. i can give you one anecdote that illustrates the story nicely. in 1957 a group of psychologists at the university of michigan has surveys of americans'
attitudes towards marriage and unmarried people and they found that 80% of americans thought that people that wanted to be unmarried were either sick, immoral or neurotic. today almost half of all americans are single. it's 49% according to the most recent studies. they would be absurd to ask such a question and the was researchers to. there are attitudes about relationships and marriage that have changed tremendously. and i want to say something about the whole social problem that is training to make clear why i wrote this book the way that i did. we have a tendency, and we have had it for a long time to like books that announced a social change and observe the social change and then express the kind of nostalgic regret about how much we have lost so we constantly portray ourselves as a society of loners that have lost our communities and we become disconnected from each
other and worry. we are lonely americans. we are a lonely crowd. this vocabulary kind of haunts our way of thinking about who we are. but it seems to me that is the wrong kind of language to use to document this social change because what i observed is not people who are disconnected but people who are living alone and finding new ways to be connected with each other searching for new ways to live and i got extraordinarily interested in the ways in which we are adapting to the new social conditions and incredibly creative and fascinating ways. so, one of the remarkable things i learned in the context of the process of doing this book is that it turns out people who live alone typically are now hunkering down at home compared to unmarried couples and tend to go out more. they spend more time with their neighbors, they spend more time with friends and in public
places they are likely to encounter strangers and more time in bars and cafes and restaurants. it's married people, and i should say that i myself am married and have two kids so i am not making the case against marriage by any means. married people tend to hunker down. it seems to me like we get a better capacity to understand the social change which so many of us can relate to whether we live alone or just the people and our friendship networks or families, the better capacity to understand if we think about it as the social change and experiment we have so much more to understand before we can see that. >> host: i really appreciate that positive optimistic and shivers updates with the experience of many of my friends and so forth but then i have this other side of me which --
the group by study i do hiv research and study people in poor urban environments that have a long involvement in the criminal justice system or their partners or in the criminal-justice system, and and in that group i see a problem of basically so many social forces pulling them apart and are undermining see will relationships and they are seeking to establish intimacy where they are constantly separated and people going to jail, not coming to jail. >> guest: as you said in the book i spend special attention to this group which is unusual in the sense that they are the least likely to live alone in fact but they're the most likely to have those problems and i think that i would address it the way that you do which is to
trace the we that these personal problems in some ways are related to the structural situations of the unemployment and begin in the neighborhood of high crime and having a higher probability of contracting infectious disease and they can undermine anyone's capacity to have intimate relationships and have stable and fulfilling bonds. but this isn't where you see the highest level of living alone and that is something some people see it that way and some people see the other way. for me like what is fascinating about living alone is it is the kind of test we project a lot of our own view of how the world is or how people should live so if we are inclined to think about social problems and worries about the disconnection we might
find evidence. if we are inclined to think about the new connections and different ways we might find evidence. the truth is i try hard in the book to avoid making the judgment as i said i'm not rendering a verdict whether this is a good or bad way to live, that isn't what i do or how we think about it or would it matter if i did because no one would listen to me. i said to someone that has young children and i know how my opinion in the heating can matter but instead it seems to me that this is such a profound social change. so many people are experiencing this new way of lifting it makes sense for us to pause for a moment with our judgment and simply try to understand. i try to chronicle the dangers of being isolated, what happens when living alone doesn't happen and there are stories that are tough to read and many people that live alone have told me it's been difficult to read
these things they are glad the have had a chance and they get to read of things these year but at the same time there's a lot of accounts about how people put their lives together and in interesting ways that they never would have conceived of a generation or two ago so for me the challenge is to say here's the change happening we haven't developed a name, we haven't identified it. it's the phenomena of living alone isn't something that's entered our general conversation of what's happened to the world. it's so prevalent we need to identify it and once we do we can begin to have conversations that help us all understand who we are and what we are becoming today. host, i do agree it doesn't come through a sense of judgment at all or here are some difference
going on and what we need ultimately is a set of social arrangements that allow whatever living arrangements people are in to be fulfilling and feel connected and he will to individually fulfill as well as collectively fulfilling and so forth. but i want to talk about one of the things that was for me harder to read and wondering how it was for you. this idea that aging alone and two things strike me that you said one thing is nobody ever said i am worried about dying married. they say i'm worried about dying alone but they don't say i'm worried about dying married. the other thing was this woman, i can't remember her name now that she was a public -- she tried to find the history or the next of kin of people that have died and i thought i'd never
thought anybody that did that. >> guest: this is a story that i did research on for a story that i did in this american life, the terrific radio program and i went to los angeles to study what happened when someone dies alone and no one comes to claim the body or the estate and it turns out that when you have a society where there are lots of people aging alone, millions of people aging alone there will inevitably be some people would die and have no keck to the connect can and it turns out to be a fascinating underworld where you need the public investigator whose job is to search for the next can and go to the department and look for things that will give you some clue she's like a detective. there are attorneys who get involved because sometimes you have the states to manage and some people don't have that much money but some do have money.
and in this case where i went, the woman had two dogs we have to find a way to deal with the dogs. there is a whole fascinating underworld, and it was in some ways completely disturbing the extent to which someone could get cut off, but an incredible thing happened in the course of doing that story which is we walked outside and saw to neighbors and stopped the first one and said can you tell us about this woman who died and he said marianne, i hardly saw her, she seemed like a sad woman. she was always by herself, just her and her dogs. it's very sad. and then we walked 30 feet and there was another guy and said can you tell us something about mary ann? she said such a nice woman was lovely to have her around she seemed to have such a good life and their responses to her story seemed to me to say more about
them than they did about maryann. ultimately we can never know when someone dies alone in the debate die that way because they wanted to remove themselves from company, with a desperate for the companionship, it's interesting. we spoke to many women who are living alone now after having been married and after having cared for a very sick or dying husband, and universally the women said i love my husband and i miss him and really wish that he were here. my life would be better if we were together but the experience of going through that was so difficult for me that i can't imagine getting remarried. i don't want to do that again. maybe i will find a partner and we will live apart together, but i don't want to share my home with someone again and i thought was interesting.
so we right ourselves in to these stories in some ways. asked to the first issue about marriage and something someone else said to me. in his fifties and now starting to project out work to the rest of his life and he said no one ever worries about dying married. i think what he was speaking to was several things. one of them is at marriage turns out to be not the solution to everyone's problems, that in fact many of the people i interviewed who had been divorced or separated said to me that occasionally they get lonely living by themselves but that nothing had ever been so lonely as living with the wrong person. a marriage gone awry is the loneliest experience that you can have, and i felt there was a very powerful instinct, one that we can all relate to. that kind of makes the point and
get some back to my first question of what is living alone any way? >> guest: sure again i feel we need to make very careful distinctions. too often we want to get their living alone, being alone, being isolated and even being lonely, and i could show you countless books and newspaper articles and magazine articles and even social science studies that treat these things as if they are the same. let's not do that. we model our thinking if we do. i want to make a clear distinction between living alone which just means you have your own place. you don't share it with another resident, and being alone which is about how you spend your time with being isolated which is about not having a lot of contact or much contact with the people and being lonely which is a subjective commission, and as i said, you can feel quite lonely when you are living with someone else. maybe you feel lonelier than you
would in other situations and so these things are in other cases they are different things and we need to treat them that way. for the purpose of this book and other than the numbers i gave you the fact that the one or two-person households in washington, d.c. and in manhattan are and in stockholm 60% of households and harris, the city of lovers more than 50% of households are one-person households. this is just census data. it's the numbers of how you live. that shouldn't tell us anything about how people are lonely or whether people are isolated. that is another thing altogether. >> host: i think that's jerry troupe. and going to the back to the aging alone and dying alone, i felt was the contrast between the northern european like sweden countries and the u.s. kind of came out there that there are societies that makes living alone when you are dying
alone or aging alone or whatever not as scary as it is in our society but take care of their aging population. >> guest: most of the book is in the united states and about american cities and i should say at the outset people do live alone in rural areas but i couldn't study them and so this is about the city's which is where it mostly happens. but towards the end of the book i spread out and go to other places and write about other places where living alone has become very common in the city's had just invested much more thinking and resources in developing places where people can maintain their domestic autonomy, people can live alone which is what people are opting to do. they have to face that fact. but also, connect them with other people and with collective goods from, and cooking to commercial entities to become amenities to the transportation.
there is a lot that you can do in these areas that we are not doing here. so in some ways we have a problem in the united states. we had a big server when kick and a lot of middle class americans moved out to suburbia to raise their children. well, now a booming generation is experiencing the fact that their children have moved away, they've lived in houses were too big for them and in places they can't do much walking commercial stuff you're depending on their cards and they are satisfying as it might be if they lived in a place where you could do these collective activities you could have better public transportation and could go shopping done as reported coffee on a street or what to a restaurant down the street, have a smaller home that wasn't so expensive to heat and air conditioned and maintained so we
face a problem now in retrofitting our cities and suburbs and that we do today. >> host: it's hard for me to put aside in my own work the issues we think about which is the various things that are disrupting the communities and so to the extent is this changing this new group of people moving back into the cities and wanted the more urban experience and that is having an impact on communities that once lived there and the development of the urban areas moving some people out in order to accommodate this trend. >> guest: people have returned to cities and we would say that in some ways the net economic impact of the living in cities
has been mostly positive, enormous part of the market, single people today by $2 trillion the united states big market and the cafes and restaurants and things like that. so, they are adding a lot of fuel to the urban economy and they are boosting the real-estate sector which would be even worse off than it is now were it not for the demand coming from the singles but at the same time in some cases they are part of the object vacation process that can displace people who once called the neighborhood home so what we are seeing increasingly is the kind of suburbanization of poverty and in some ways the united states is moving closer to that model where the city center is a kind of urban playground and the peripheral areas start to have problems we've always thought of as urban problems so these things are changing absolutely.
>> host: is it changing so that one group of people was able to make connections and live alone and not be lonely and another group of people was being displaced in areas they are far from jobs and communities and is that causing the opposite in a way that there is less and less and more difficult time connecting to people? >> guest: jobs moved to the suburbs as well. there are a whole bunch of issues that are there but i think that we are seeing these fascinating changes in the organization of the cities and suburbs and in a time of real in the quality, people who live in affluent bubbles and enclaves of wealth in which you hardly know that there is the poverty that
the country is at war and then there are other people whose daily lives are immersed in that world. again i want to emphasize with the social change i'm just describing here in this kind of rise of living alone that we are so early in the experiment. it's such a new thing for us we are starting to get a sense of what the ripple effect could be and one of the things an intriguing to me is 2012 is an election year we are thinking a lot about politics and half of americans now, half of american adults are single and seems to me like this creates all sorts of opportunities for political parties to try to reach out to their constituents in a different way and the premise of the political party has been that people live in nuclear families and republicans for instance have a lot to say about family value, that's one of the guiding ideas of their politics.
that kind of language might alienate an enormous number of american voters if people are single as we know many are in especially if they are living alone that kind of language might feel like to put down and a strange them from the party and seems to me like the political parties need to start thinking about a different kind of language that doesn't have the same residence. maybe they are human values or social all use our collective ones. i don't know what they are but it seems a lot of the things we do and believe and say we value our out of sync with the way we live. >> host: so you are focusing on the end point or let me because essentially it to other things like living alone but
moving back one of the things is work we talked about before. is the solution to say that cults of people are living alone now because of jobs, it's harder to maintain jobs and relationship to do all these things and where is the place for someone to be saying why is it so hard to have relationships and have a professional career and why do these jobs interfere in people's lives and should we be thinking about how to make it more possible at the same time as accommodating the people who want to live on their own also thinking about the things pushing them into this. >> guest: we have a lot of things going on here. there's no doubt that we have spent an enormous amount of waking hours lucky enough to
have jobs a lot of people are unemployed. working alone would be a luxury for them and they are not the people that are living alone. but, we've changed social policy to such an extent that now individuals experience this believe that they have to be able to take care of themselves and they have to invest in their own career. they have to invest in developing themselves so they can be flexible, so they can go where the opportunities are. there's not a strong set of promise in the lifetime of support we are free agents in this respect and i think this kind of free agency culture puts a lot of pressure on us as individuals and pushes us to think about our own needs and ways of of the needs of collective and that is kind of a scary part of the change. it's one reason for instance why
during the recession people don't just go and get married and a lot of people thought when the economic disaster hit people would stop living alone and you couple look and get through it. but that doesn't happen. people don't want to make commitments to other people when they feel so insecure about their own lives. so in fact mary treats the down during times and we haven't seen a decline in living alone. there are more americans living alone in 2012 than there were in 2008 periods, in fact there is a lot of pressure to an individual in times like this and that is something that is more recent. i don't know that anyone has a way of thinking out solution to the problem. seems to me like the the date now was not about how to reduce the number of hours that people are working, is but that seems like the kind of debate that we need to be starting.
>> host: i found it interesting that the idea of people living alone there were some ways in which there were discriminated against or maybe discrimination is too strong a word but where social policies worked to their disadvantage. can you see something about that? >> guest: i spoke with a lot of aspiring professionals and they had a kind of discrimination on different levels, so one thing is probably familiar experience for people watching. you work in an office where many people are married and have families and there is a lot of work to do and some will say i love to work this week and i care about this but my son has a little league game and i promised my wife i would do this and so the person kind of expense themselves because the family obligation. and many people who are single report that in the politics of the office there's a kind of promise that the single people
are going to be available to do more work and they experience it as a kind of discrimination. they would like to have time for themselves as well. it can be worse, however, the people like talk to that say they've literally been denied bonuses or were given a lower bonus than colleagues during the same or lesser work because the managers of the company's fault that person doesn't really need the money. he or she -- the don't have that much and they seem like they are living a pretty good life. so these kind of things enter into the world we live and even though i think much of the stigma of living alone has disappeared. and another thing that people reported from cities like manhattan or new york cities where they are kalat it can be hard to get past the board as a single person, and they are looking for families and those are all tough things. we've come a long way since the 1950's but we probably have a little bit more weight to go.
but the numbers suggest this isn't going to last forever. half of americans are single and a big proportion live alone suggests maybe our ideas will come around. for instance there are organizations that are working very hard to organize singles as a political bloc. we have so many common interests maybe we can have more of ineffective we did this and a democratic political strategist start an organization in washington, d.c. specifically to try to get unmarried women to the voting booth because she recognized that in the 2000 election as narrow as it was there were 20 million single women who were eligible to vote and didn't vote. she thought it probably means democrat. and the democratic party could reach out and appealed to them, it could really do well. in the 2008 election she was
working hard to make single women to make mass card ads or soccer moms and in 2012i think that we will see even more of that. it's difficult to organize singles because they don't always identified that we but maybe things are starting to change. >> host: where do you plan on taking this next or is this moving away from this and into some -- >> host: >> guest: it's hard to say. when i finished the heat wave but i thought i will never touch that topic again. who wants to think about being alone and living alone packs that again, when i step back and look at the social change and i thought this is something that is too big to ignore people ask me why are you interested in the topic? you are a married guy, you have two kids, seems like a really strange thing. shouldn't you study something that you know more of but my response to that is i simply can't think of many things that are as new and significant and
massive as the rise of living alone in the contemporary world. i mean, literally this is something that our species didn't do until 50 or 60 years ago and we are developing ways to do it now, not just in the united states, not just in the west but also as i said in japan. three of the nations that have the highest increases in living alone now are china, india and brazil that have economic development and growth. what you're seeing is people are living alone whenever and wherever they can afford to do it, and it is not what we expected. so it is the surprising appeal of living alone. we expect that marriage will breed security or economic growth and affluence will read security and there will lead to marriage. it's something different. we are finding people opting to be alone and not to be antisocial, not to be cut off but to be connected in new ways so there's a lot more to study here.