German cities: popular with single people

April 2016

Whether it’s a blind date at a museum, an evening of board games or a springtime bike ride – there is a long list of activities offered specially for single people. Statistically at least, those who love city life and want to boost their opportunities to flirt might be best advised to move to Leipzig, Hanover, Berlin, Munich or Dusseldorf. These cities have the greatest proportion of single-person households – and accordingly the highest number of single people. The proportion in each is in excess of 50%, far above the national average.

In 2015, 38% of all households in Germany were single-person households. Things look considerably different in Berlin, the capital city, where over half (51%) of the city’s approximate 3.4 million residents lived on their own last year. In Leipzig, a city with a large student population, the figure is even higher at just short of 52%. The figures for Hanover, Munich and Dusseldorf are comparable with Berlin. Other large cities also have relatively high proportions: In Frankfurt and Nuremberg, for example, 48% of households are single-person, putting them in sixth place. At 47%, Hamburg and Cologne follow close behind, while Bremen and Dresden register 46%. A total of 45% of households in the Ruhr cities of Essen and Dortmund are single-person, the same as in Stuttgart. Comparatively, Duisburg has relatively few single-person households at just 42%. These are the results of the GfK Population Structure Data Germany 2015 study, which we will summarize here in an effort to compare information on Germany’s 15 most populous cities. The study itself features regional data on the sociodemographic characteristics of Germany’s regions, on the basis of Bundesland, municipality or even postcode area.

Families with children: least common in Leipzig

What is the reason that some cities are home to more single-person households than families with children? In addition to an extensive offer of cultural and educational activities, this may be attributable to the housing market in cities being easier for single people to navigate. Finding an affordable home in a decent location for a family with kids can be tricky in some parts of Germany, especially in urban areas. Many metropolitan areas in Germany are home to universities and therefore attractive to young people, who tend to not yet have a family. City life is also attractive for older people, since they can get everywhere on foot, unlike in the countryside. “Single” households consequently tend to be young people or senior citizens. This may also explain why households with children are less commonly found in the 15 most populous cities in Germany when compared with the national average. While the national average shows that nearly one in three (32%) Germans live with their family, in expensive Munich this figure is just 23%. The number is equally low in Hanover and Dresden. For Dusseldorf and Berlin, the proportion of multi-person households with children is also just 24%. In Hamburg, Bremen and Nuremberg, the proportion is 25%. Of the 15 cities featured, Leipzig has the lowest proportion at 20%, while Duisburg features the highest at 29%. Figures for the remaining cities fall between, at 26% or 27%. Many of those who decide single life is no longer for them seemingly exchange an abundance of bars, restaurants and cinemas for a peaceful existence in the countryside as they look to start a family.

Living together without children: most common in Dresden

So what about couples who live together but do not have children? You might presume that large cities attract more childless couples or flat-sharing groups, as well as single people. Yet the study reveals that the number of multi-person households without children in the 15 most populous German cities tends to be around the average. In this regard, at 29%, Stuttgart and Bremen, as well as the Ruhr cities of Dortmund, Duisburg and Essen, barely deviate from the national average (30%). This is also the case for Hamburg (28%) in addition to Leipzig, Nuremberg and Munich (27% each). The lowest proportions of multi-person households without children for the 15 most populous cities in Germany are to be found in Berlin, Frankfurt, Hanover and Dusseldorf, at 26% each. Only in Dresden (32%), which also known as the “Florence on the Elbe”, is the proportion of multi-person households without children slightly above the national average.

Essen, Duisburg and Dortmund: main earners older than average

It is no secret that Germany has an ageing population. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that across Germany there are more household heads aged 60+ than any other age group. The main earner in more than a third of households (36%) is aged 60 or above. Essen, at 37%, actually slightly exceeds this figure. The values for Duisburg and the Ruhr’s most populous city Dortmund are more of less around the national average. However, these are the exceptions, as older households are by and large underrepresented in the cities featured in our survey. The proportion is particularly low in Frankfurt. Here, the figure is just 29%. In Berlin, Hamburg and Munich as well, the older generation account for just 30%.

Leipzig and Dresden: cities with more younger households

At national level, 38% of households have a main earner aged between 40 and 60 years old (19% between 40 and 50; 19% between 50 and 60). While 50 to 60-year-olds are more rarely found in the majority of the 15 cities included in this survey than elsewhere in the country, the proportion of 40 to 50-year-olds barely diverges from the national average. The only exceptions here are Leipzig and Dresden. The picture is somewhat different with regard to younger age groups. While the national average reveals that the main earner is aged between 30 and 40 in 15% of households, the proportion is significantly higher in most cities – above all in Munich and Frankfurt, where the figure is 20%. The difference is even more extreme when it comes to the youngest households – those with a main earner aged under 30. This is the case for an average of 12% of households across Germany, yet the figure is significantly higher in many of the cities included in this survey. Leipzig appears to not just be a city for single people, but a place with an above average proportion of young households (22%). Dresden follows at 20%, while Berlin, Hanover and Nuremberg come in slightly behind with values of 16% and 15%.

The stress of city life: find your oasis

Whether you are a child-free retiree with a theater season ticket, in your mid-30s with a large family or an aspirational main earner in your late 20s – Germany has the right city and/or region for a wide variety of needs. However, finding a dream place to call home is dependent on family ties and the labor market. Those who choose to settle down in a city will find cultural offerings at every turn, excellent infrastructure and a varied lifestyle. But city life also has its downsides. As Mazda Adli, Head of the “Affective Disorders” research division at the Berliner Charité hospital and Head Physician at the Fliedner Clinic, has found, the combination of social density and social isolation leads to city-specific social stress (see the Berliner Zeitung article dated 20 October 2014). Living in cramped conditions where you can constantly hear the neighbors, but without actually knowing them, can lead to illness. Moving to a quieter area can help – or keeping your distance from the chaos and confusion of city life now and again. Mazda Adli calls this “finding your oasis in the city”. He claims, taking Berlin as an example, “This could even be a park bench in the city – there’s no need to leave Berlin head to one of the lakes in Brandenburg.”


Data source: GfK Geomarketing „ Population Structure Data Germany “ (2015)

If you have any queries concerning this article, please contact Cornelia Lichtner (cornelia.lichtner@gfk.com) or Claudia Gaspar (claudia.gaspar@gfk-verein.org).

If you have any queries concerning GfK Compact, please contact Claudia Gaspar (claudia.gaspar@gfk-verein.org).


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