Who Lives in Cohousing?
People interested in cohousing occasionally ask about the population who live in cohousing and how this population compares to the US population as a whole. I recently finished reading Graham Meltzer's book "Sustainable Community: Learning from the cohousing model." This valuable book, published in 2007, is based on Meltzer's research, much of it originally done for his Ph.D. dissertation in Australia. In this book he looks at a dozen cohousing communities around the Pacific Ocean, two in British Columbia, Canada, six in Washington state and California, one in New Zealand, two in Tasmania, Australia, and the last in Tokyo, Japan. The focus of the book is indeed on sustainability which the author examines in considerable detail.
I found particularly interesting his data in Chapter 15 (pages 129-136) on North American cohousing. He reports on the age distribution, income levels, education, and occupations of the cohousing population. Here is a summary of some of his key data:
1) Education level: 80% of the adults have a college degree, compared to 30% of the entire population. In fact,10% of cohousing adults have a doctorate and 40%, a graduate degree.
2) Most cohousing adults work in professional occupations, especially education, management, health care. 22% work part-time and 16% work from the home.
3) The average age is 42, compared to 35 in the entire population. There are few in their 20s, but rather even distribution among adults in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, with a few 70 or above.
4) 95% of the population is white, with few people of color (1% African-American, compared to 11% nationally) and lower proportions of disabled and gay and lesbian, according to Meltzer.
5) Incomes are solidly middle class, with few low income and even fewer very wealthy. The annual income figures in the Meltzer book are now outdated and would need to be updated with inflation over time.
I thought this data very useful to answer the question of who lives in cohousing in the US and how cohousers compare to the population as a whole. The data is based on a sample that Meltzer surveyed. There have been many cohousing communities built since his research, so newer residents of cohousing may have changed the data somewhat, though I suspect the basic parameters have not changed much over time.