Solitary living in South Africa: what is driving the pattern and change?

  • Nyasha MutandaEmail author
  • Clifford O. Odimegwu


Little is known about solitary living in sub-Saharan Africa, despite the prevalence of evidence in countries like South Africa showing that one-person households (OPHs) are on the rise. This paper examines the determinants of solitary living and the contribution of these factors to the rise in solitary living in South Africa. The analysis was based on 10% samples from three successive censuses of South Africa (1996, 2001, 2011). The multilevel binary logistic regression model was used to identify the determinants and a non-linear multivariate decomposition method was used to identify key contributing factors. The proportion of OPHs increased from 17.8% in 1996 to 27.5% in 2011. Living alone was found to be associated with various important demographic and socio-economic factors. Predominantly, the increase in solitary living in South Africa is attributed to compositional change of characteristics (68.5%) compared to change in the effects of characteristics (31.5%). The main contributing factors were compositional shifts in household ownership, household income level, migration and employment. More research on solitary living is needed to inform policy.


Solitary living Family structure Determinants Decomposition South Africa 



The authors acknowledge the support of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development, South Africa. Opinions expressed, and conclusions arrived at are those of the authors and not to be attributed to the Centre of Excellence in Human Development.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Demography and Population Studies Programme, Schools of Public Health and Social SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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