September 20, 2009
By Bella DePaulo
Professor of Psychology
University of California, Santa Barbara
September 20-26, 2009 is Unmarried and Single Americans Week. Today almost 45 percent of the American population is unmarried, up from 28 percent in 1970. Nearly 96 million Americans 18 and older are never-married, divorced, or widowed. Yet many Americans still equate unmarried with unhappy, unhealthy, uninvolved in community life, and unencumbered by family obligations. These stereotypes are all false.
Single Americans are found in all age groups, household types, racial and ethnic groups.
- Americans 65 and older account for just 16 percent of all unmarried Americans. In fact, older Americans are the only segment of the population MORE likely to be married than in the past. Nearly half of all unmarried Americans are between the ages of 30 and 64.
- There are more single-person households in America than married-couple households with children. But most single people do not live alone. The 32.2 million who do live alone account for only about a third of all unmarried Americans.
- Thirteen percent of unmarried Americans — 12.4 million individuals live with a partner. Of those 6.2 million couples, 5.5 million consisted of opposite-sex couples.
- 34.3 percent of Asians, 39 percent of Non-Hispanic Whites, 42.6 percent of Hispanics, and 58.5 percent of Blacks in the U.S. are unmarried.
Single Americans are vitally involved in building interpersonal and community bonds.
- Adults who have always been single are more likely to visit, contact, advise, and give practical aid to their parents and siblings than are the currently or previously married.
- Singles are also more likely to socialize with and give both practical and emotional support to friends, coworkers, and neighbors.
- Three of every 10 grandparents with primary responsibility for their grandchildren are unmarried. That amounts to 743,000 single-grandparents with primary care-giving responsibilities.
- 11.6 million single parents live with and have primary responsibility for their children. (Of these, 9.8 million are single mothers.)
The overwhelming majority of single Americans live healthy and happy lives.
- 92.6 percent of never-married Americans rate their own health as excellent or good, compared to 86.6 percent of widowed people and 91 percent of divorced people. In fact, women who have always been single are more likely to rate their health as excellent or good than are married men.
- Single people who do marry and stay married report small increases in happiness around the year of the wedding (a honeymoon effect), then go back to the same level of happiness they had when they were single. Never-married single people report higher levels of happiness than divorced or widowed Americans.
For Further Information
For more information on singles in American, contact fact sheet author Bella DePaulo, author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After: firstname.lastname@example.org, 805.565.9582. An expert on the place of singles in society, she also writes the “Living Single” blog for Psychology Today. Dr. DePaulo is a Visiting Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Visit her website at www.BellaDePaulo.com.
For perspectives on single women, including single women and celibacy, contact Kay Trimberger, author of The New Single Woman, Professor Emerita of Women’s & Gender Studies, Sonoma State University, and Visiting Scholar, Center for the Study of Social Change, University of California, Berkeley: email@example.com, 510.848.4033.
For information on her research on the contributions of singles versus married people to their family and community, and some of the sources for those differences, contact Naomi Gerstel, Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst: firstname.lastname@example.org, 413.545.5976.
To learn about the legal status of singles, contact Nancy D. Polikoff, Professor of Law, Washington College of Law, American University, and author of Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage: email@example.com, 202.274.4232.
For questions related to singles and adoption, contact Adam Pertman, Executive Director, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and author of Adoption Nation: firstname.lastname@example.org, 617.332.8944.
For an understanding of the transitions of adults in and out of singlehood, cohabitation, and marriage, contact Andrew Cherlin, Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University, and author of The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today: email@example.com, 410.516.2370.
For further information on singles and sexual health, contact Adina Nack, Associate Professor of Sociology at California Lutheran University and author of Damaged Goods? Women Living with Incurable Sexually Transmitted Diseases: 805.493.3438, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.adinanack.com.
For a perspective on single sexuality in midlife and beyond, contact Pepper Schwartz, Professor of Sociology, University of Washington, and author of Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love, and the Sensual Years: email@example.com, 206.543.4036.