Volume 32 - Article 43 | Pages 1177–1208  

Long-term trends in living alone among Korean adults: Age, gender, and educational differences

By Hyunjoon Park, Jaesung Choi

This article is part of the Special Collection 15 "Living Alone: One-person households in Asia"


Background: One of the major demographic changes in Korea is the rapid increase of one-person households, from 7% in 1985 to 24% in 2010. The increase of living alone has important implications for the traditional family system.

Objective: We investigate the long-term trend over half a century in the proportion of people living alone, separately for different age and gender groups. Focusing on two groups, the widowed elderly aged 65 or over and never-married 25 to 34-year-olds, we further examine the relationship between education and living alone.

Methods: We use 1960 to 2010 Korean Census data to describe the trends in living alone by age and gender. We apply logit models to predict the odds of living alone by education from 1980 to 2010. To facilitate interpretation, we present predicted probabilities of living alone.

Results: There is a continuing increase in solo living among Koreans, albeit to different degrees, for both genders and all age groups. The rising trend in solo living among elderly widows and never-married men aged 25 to 34, in particular, reveals that the propensity for living alone has increased within specific marital status and age groups. We find that those with lower education were more likely to live alone than their counterparts with higher education.

Conclusions: The negative relationship between education and living alone in Korea is in contrast to the pattern of ‘buying-out’ living alone in the United States. We interpret the finding in the context of Korean society, which has a long tradition of valuing living together.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Trends and educational variation in the association between spouses’ marital histories in South Korea, 1993–2017
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US baby boomers’ homeownership trajectories across the life course: A Sequence Analysis approach
Volume 44 - Article 43

Introduction to the special collection on family changes and inequality in East Asia
Volume 44 - Article 40

Diverging gaps in childcare time by parental education in South Korea
Volume 44 - Article 6

Effects of single parenthood on educational aspiration and student disengagement in Korea
Volume 18 - Article 13

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