Average New York

Who is the "average" New York City roommate?

By Virginia K. Smith  | February 9, 2017 - 11:59AM

We learned earlier this week about the "average" New Yorker—apparently, a 20-something white woman living in Brooklyn, based on the data. But what if you're living with roommates?

In a city where it's common to continue living with roommates well past your early twenties, the portrait of a typical New York City roommate might look a little different than the post-college wingman (or wingwoman) cliché. Before we delve into specifics, first there's this surprising takeaway: There are fewer roommates across the city than we might have guessed. According to Census information pulled by NYCdata (and based on a survey of 2,139,245 city residents), only 9.9 percent of NYC renters are "non-family households" with more than one person. And that data varies by borough: In Manhattan, 11.3 percent of residents are roommates; in Brooklyn, 7.9 percent; in Queens, 6.3 percent; in the Bronx, 4 percent; and in Staten Island, 3.2 percent. (You can toggle around to find stats on your specific neighborhood with this NYC Census FactFinder tool).

Looking at the same census data, there are more women than men in the city (52.4 percent versus 47.6 percent), the most common age range is 25 to 34, and the city has more Caucasians than any other race—meaning that in theory, at least, the average roommate is a twentysomething white female living in Manhattan. All of which makes the average roommate a whole lot like the average New Yorker in general, except that she'd be living in Manhattan, rather than Brooklyn.

For some more specifics, we asked roommate-matching site SpareRoom to crunch the numbers based on their users. (Granted, it's a somewhat self-selecting sample size compared to the Census— 72 percent have bachelor's degrees, and 47 percent are white.) Among those roommates, though, 14 percent were over the age of 40, 65 percent were U.S. Nationals (and just 12 percent were native New Yorkers), 45 percent live with just one other person (as opposed to a group of roommates), 38 percent are sharing with strangers (versus 35 percent roommating with friends, 29 percent with family, and 9 percent with friends of friends), and the majority are living in apartment buildings rather than houses.

"People tend to think of apartment-sharing as a young person’s game but the average age isn't far off 34 now and, with 1 in 7 over 40, maybe it’s time we change our perceptions about sharing," SpareRoom's Matt Hutchinson tells us.

There was also startling financial data in the mix: 68 percent of SpareRoom renters are spending more than 30 percent of their salary on rent—which qualifies them as rent-burdened—and 34 percent are spending more than half their salary. (Still, among that sampling, 58 percent still considered their rent to be affordable.) Meanwhile, 25 percent reported that their apartments were rent-stabilized, 43 percent were market rate, and 31 percent said they didn't know. (PSA: Always do the research to find out if your apartment should be stabilized.)

Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that 52 percent of roommates who used the site say they're not on their apartment's lease. Florida, New Jersey, and California were the top three states from which roommates moved to the city.

"Affordability leaps out as the biggest issue for renters," says Hutchinson. "It's also worrying that more than half of New York's roommates aren't on the lease, meaning they have little security. When you're spending half your salary on a place to live, the least you should be able to expect is the peace of mind knowing you're not going to get kicked out at a moment's notice."

But on the bright side: 11 percent of roommates surveyed had ended up in a relationship with their roommate, and 4 percent had started dating a roommate's friend or colleague. So even if you're paying too much for your apartment and living with roommates longer than expected, hey, at least you might find love.


Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.