This article compares the determinants of living alone among older people during later life in a wide variety of countries from across the globe, including very different family systems, policy contexts, levels of development, and socioeconomic characteristics. The analysis makes use of two large datasets, one with country-level variables for 61 countries and the other with microcensus data for 32 countries. Logistic regression is used to estimate the weight of different factors behind the residential choices of the elderly. Basic theoretical expectations about the determinants of living alone are validated. These affect both the supply of potential caregivers (fertility, mortality) and the willingness of individuals to live alone. Overall levels of development play a key role in determining the likelihood of living alone. Another important part of the observed differences is explained by societal characteristics such as family systems and available policy options.
Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.