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Going solo: ND leads nation in young adults living alone

FARGO-Jared Olson is a big fan of solo living. He moved out on his own when he turned 18 and continues to live alone in a one-bedroom apartment.Now 24, Olson prefers the freedom that living alone affords. He admits to being particular about his s...

Jared Olson, 24, has been living in this apartment in Fargo for almost five years. It is near the motel where he works as a front desk agent. North Dakota has the nation's highest percentage of young adults who are living alone. Olson has been living on his own since he turned 18. Dave Wallis / The Forum
Jared Olson, 24, has been living in this apartment in Fargo for almost five years. It is near the motel where he works as a front desk agent. North Dakota has the nation's highest percentage of young adults who are living alone. Olson has been living on his own since he turned 18. Dave Wallis / The Forum
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FARGO-Jared Olson is a big fan of solo living. He moved out on his own when he turned 18 and continues to live alone in a one-bedroom apartment.

Now 24, Olson prefers the freedom that living alone affords. He admits to being particular about his surroundings and has never considered living with roommates.

"It gives you a sense of independence living on your own," he said. "I can pretty much do what I want. I feel like you have more options if you live by yourself."
Olson has plenty of company. North Dakota has the highest percentage of young adults, those ages 18 to 34, living alone at 13 percent, according to figures from 2015 compiled by the North Dakota Census Office.

"That makes sense," Olson said, when told he's part of a larger pattern. "Pretty much everyone I know lives alone. I don't know very many people who don't live alone, unless they're still in school."

Olson, a Fargo native, attended North Dakota State University for a time, but dropped out to enter the workforce. He works weekdays as a front desk agent at a motel and works on weekends to help arrange weddings.

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Kevin Iverson, manager of the North Dakota Census Office, said the state's relatively affordable housing costs and living expenses probably help to explain why living alone is so common. In North Dakota, 16 percent of those ages 18 to 34 live with their parents, less than half the national rate of 34 percent, according to census figures.

The median rent in North Dakota is $705, compared to the national median rent of $928, according to census figures, while the state's median monthly housing cost for homeowners with a mortgage is $1,243, compared to the national median of $1,492.

For instance, Johnson pays $655 for his one-bedroom apartment. Earlier, he lived in a studio apartment that was re-rented the day after he gave his notice.

Among non-Hispanic white young adults in North Dakota, those in households with higher incomes were more inclined to live with their parents.

"I wasn't expecting to find that when I went into the data," Iverson said. "It's comfortable," he added, offering a theory. "Maybe when you have more resources, you're not so crowded and you have less of a need to push the kids to go out to college."

Despite North Dakota's young adults' high rate of living alone, they also ranked near the top in the percentage of those residing with a spouse. At 34 percent, North Dakota was exceeded only by Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.

Krysta Larson, 29, lives alone in an apartment in north Fargo. A native of St. Paul, Larson first came to Fargo for clinical training as a lab technician and ended up getting a full-time job, so she stayed.

During her first year, Larson lived with two roommates in a townhouse. She had been used to living with roommates at school, but now prefers living alone.

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"I can pretty much do whatever I want, whenever I want," she said, adding that she can lounge around in her pajamas watching television if the mood strikes.

Larson's monthly rent is $555 for her 600-square-foot apartment. "It's definitely affordable," she said, adding that she owns little furniture, and uses her ottoman as a makeshift table.

Bella La DePaulo, a psychologist who champions the benefits of the single lifestyle, said more and more people are opting to live alone, a trend that has persisted for decades.

"A lot of people worry about that," she said. "They think it's going to be bad. In fact, single people are more connected," and married couples become more socially isolated.

DePaulo, a visiting professor of social psychology at the University of California in Santa Barbara, also said the average age when people marry continues to go up. Now men are almost 30 on average when they marry.

"Lots of people think this is a bad thing," said DePaulo, author of the book "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After."

"I think men are going to be much better at a whole lot of things because of this," she said,adding they will have to acquire skills considered traditionally female, including cooking, housekeeping keeping track of social obligations.

"Men are getting better at interpersonal relationships," DePaulo said. "I think that's all a very great thing."
For his part, Olson has added a few domestic touches to his apartment. He's painted the walls and installed new light fixtures.

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"It looks more like a home," he said.

Jared Olson, 24, has been living in this apartment in Fargo for almost five years. It is near the motel where he works as a front desk agent. North Dakota has the nation's highest percentage of young adults who are living alone. Olson has been living on his own since he turned 18. Dave Wallis / The Forum
Jared Olson, 24, has been living in this apartment in Fargo for almost five years. It is near the motel where he works as a front desk agent. North Dakota has the nation's highest percentage of young adults who are living alone. Olson has been living on his own since he turned 18. Dave Wallis / The Forum

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