“And when did this interest of yours begin?” I asked.
“The day after the Duchess left me,” the Duke of Dinwiddie replied.
“Oh,” I said, “I’m sorry to hear she passed away.”
“She didn’t pass away,” he said. “She run away with a truck driver from the fill-up station down by the interstate.”
“Yes, sir,” he continued. “When I realized I was gonna be livin’ alone, I got meself a case of what they call ‘the demon graphite blues.’”
“Demographic,” I suggested.
“Whatever,” he said. “I just had to know I weren’t alone, even if I were alone. This here Ducal Palace can get mighty empty when the tourists leave at night.”
“So, what did you discover?” I inquired.
“Well,” he said, “back’n when I was a young’n round 1950 fewer than 10 percent of the households in the country and in Indiana had just one person livin’ in them.
“But, by 2000, when me and the Duchess dug out the moat around the Palace, nearly 26 percent of the households in both America and our Hoosier state dun have but one resident. Son, that’s more than one in four houses and apartments and such with only one person.”
“I know,” I said. “Now it’s around 29 percent of all Hoosier households have but one person living there. Yet these 731,000 people are just 11 percent of the state’s population.
“Yeah,” he said changing tracks. “Right here in Lake County (the proud home of Dinwiddie) 30 percent of households are people living alone and about a third of them are over age 65.”
“But I found out,” the Duke continued, “Marion County leads the state with just about 40 percent of its household holdin’ just a single person. Ain’t that sumptin’? All the while Kosciusko and suburban Indy counties is down closer to 20 percent.”
“That must be because those counties don’t build many apartments,” I offered wisely.
“Not ‘cordin’ to what I dun read,” the Duke refuted my insight. “Gotta rememba lotsa old folk livin’ alone in ol’ houses where they dun raised their kids. You’ve seen the numbas on Grant County; 30 percent of households with just one person and nearly half of them 65 or older.”
“Do you think 30 percent of the households having just 11 percent of the population presents a problem for Indiana? Should we have a registry of people living alone? With an addendum for health information?” I asked. “It could be maintained by our Department of Health and accessible by first responders statewide.”
“What are you tryin’ to do? Set up some computa file for hackin’ by every scam artist selling necklace alarms? Think ‘bout the young’uns callin’ ‘Hello, Granny (Gramps), this here’s your grandson and I’m needin’ bail money.’”
“Seems to me this is where our national security obsession is going,” I said.
“Well it ain’t a-goin’ through Dinwidde, I can assure you,” the Duke assured me.
Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.