THE GRID: ONES ADD UP FAST

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Once every minute or so, the ranks of single-member households in the United States increases by a count of one. Household formation among singles is up 20 percent decade-on-decade, between the 1990 and 2000 census cycles, with a disproportionate rate of growth among women, at 28 percent versus men, at 16 percent.

As with any demographic trend, fallacies and missteps occur as business growth strategy calls for trying to group everybody in this household classification as a single, homogeneous target audience. Fact is, there are lots of different ages, income levels, levels of educational attainment, attitudes and values profiled in the consumer types who are either forced to or choose to live a life of domestic solitude.

Denver-based Looking Glass, Inc.'s segmentation system, Cohorts, lists eight of its 30-plus key consumer segments which are likely to live as one-person householders: active grandmothers (69 percent of the segment lives alone), upscale mature women (56 percent), working-class women (63 percent), fit and stylish students (52 percent), fixed income grandmothers (87 percent), sedentary men (90 percent), well-to-do gentlemen (76 percent) and working-class men (78 percent).

As evident from the accompanying map, produced with data from Claritas, single-person householders gravitate mostly to urban areas, with the highest concentration in the Northeast corridor, running from Washington, D.C. to New York. Southwest Sun Belt retirement meccas are also represented among the zones with an accelerated growth rate among such householders. An increasing number of either divorced, or widowed, mature women, are highly likely to live in the warmer climes that attract retirees. An overwhelming majority of areas of the nation are in the orange and red-orange color zones that denote either moderate to rapid growth among single-person households. By contrast, there are a few geographical areas, noted in yellow, where the rate of growth in single-person households has declined.

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