How’s that for an attention grabbing headline? As I was looking around on the internet this afternoon, I ran across this article published in Psychology Today on September 15, 2020, titled “Record Number of Americans Have Never Married and Never Will,” by Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., a social psychologist and the author of “Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After,” and “How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century,” and other books.
So how about that for news! I no longer have to feel like an anomaly–not that I ever did–but there are others like some married couples (young and old) or those with a “significant other” who like to make you feel like you are the “odd duck” among the general population. However, this article states (as of 2019 statistics):
There Are Now 130.6 Million Unmarried Americans and 85.4 Million Have Never Been Married
So much for being an “odd duck,” right?
Actually, I did not intentionally choose to be single my entire life, but as life unfolded day-by-day, month-by-month, and year-by-year, it just happened. I dated men, single and divorced, mostly from a few years older then me to almost 20 years older then me, but I never fell in love, and, quite frankly, I was very cautious when it came to marriage. My own parents divorced in 1964 when I was 12. I did almost marry in 1983, but I backed out of the wedding five weeks before it was to take place. I have never regretted that choice, either.
Here’s a few more surprising stats from this article mentioned above:
In 1956, just about everyone got married. Half of the men were younger than 22.5 when they married, and half of the women were younger than 20.1. Now we are looking at a cohort of 50-year-olds in which one out of four will have been single their whole life.
The most recent statistics are consistent with the 2014 prediction. Every year, Unmarried and Single Americans Week is celebrated during the third full week of September…. To mark the occasion, the Census Bureau releases charts and links to the latest survey results. Their reports are less extensive than they used to be, so I needed to dig into the data myself.
The number of adults in the U.S., 18 and older, who have never been married, is continuing to increase:
- 2018: 84.6 million
- 2019: 85.4 million
Of all adults who are unmarried (including the divorced, separated, and widowed), the largest group by far is comprised of those who have been single all their life:
- 2018: 61.0%
- 2019: 61.7%
The number of lifelong single people has also grown as a percentage of the total population of people 18 and older (married and unmarried):
- 2018: 28.8%
- 2019: 29.0%
The article also mentions the following regarding adults who have married:
In the U.S. in 2019, among adults between the ages of 25 and 29, fewer than 1 in 3 were married. That jumps to just over half for adults between 30 and 34, then to just over 60% for people between 35 and 39. The marriage rate peaks at nearly two-thirds after that. The next big change comes between 75 and 84, when the rate drops back down to just over half. By 85 and older, the rate is down to what it was for adults between 25 and 29, fewer than 1 in 3.
Percent of adults in the U.S. who are married, by age group (2019 data):
- Ages 18-19: 1.7
- Ages 20-24: 10.3
- Ages 25-29: 31.5
- Ages 30-34: 53.0
- Ages 35-39: 62.5
- Ages 40-44: 66.1
- Ages 45-49: 65.6
- Ages 50-54: 65.8
- Ages 55-64: 65.9
- Ages 65-74: 64.9
- Ages 75-84: 55.9
- Ages 85 and older: 31.6
Surprised? There are far more single people in our society and far fewer married people in our society then we generally believe is the case regarding both groups.
Until I came across this article this afternoon, I have to confess that I didn’t even know there was such a thing as National Singles Day (which falls on September 23, 2023 this year) or National Singles Week which is held the third full week in September.
Dr. Bella DePaulo also published an article in Psychology Today on September 16, 2018, titled, “National Singles Week: 20 Reasons Why We Need It.” Her article starts off with this paragraph:
If you’ve never heard of National Singles Week, you’ve been missing out on something that has been celebrated since the 1980s. The Census Bureau only caught up with this week—created “to celebrate single life and recognize singles and their contributions to society”—in 2006. That’s when they began issuing an annual press release, “Facts for Features: Unmarried and Single Americans Week,” chock full of fascinating statistics about single people—who they are, how many there are, how they are living, how many have children, how many vote, and much more. (Quote source here.)
Further down in the article she states:
Here are 20 of the reasons why we need Unmarried and Single Americans Week:
1. We need it, because living single is how we spend the better part of our adult lives. Americans now spend more years unmarried than married. But even if we spent only a sliver of our lives single, we should be able to use that sliver to pick any door or puncture any myth.
2. We need it, because what it means to live single has changed dramatically over the past half-century, but our perceptions have not caught up. Bogus stereotypes rule, and they need to be dethroned.
3. We need it, because fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you . . . if you are a plastic Barbie or Ken doll, or you play one on TV. If you are a real person, you are no more likely to live happily ever after if you get married than you were when you were single. We need to acknowledge that.
4. We need Singles Week to underscore another message: Single life is not just a “good-enough” life. In more than 20 scientifically established ways, single life can be even better than married life.
5. We need it, because the media has grabbed onto the Marriage Myth Express and taken it for a long and silly ride. I don’t just mean dopey shows, like “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette.” The press does us wrong even in reporting the news. As I’ve been documenting for more than a decade, media descriptions of the latest scientific studies consistently add a little glitter to any results that look good for married people, while batting away any promising findings about single people. (Check out “Marriage vs. Single Life: How Science and the Media Got It So Wrong.”)
6. We need it, because our educational institutions—those colleges and universities that should be at the leading edge of scholarship and critical thinking—have been just as smitten by the marital mythology as the rest of society. Those bastions of higher learning are filled with courses, degree programs, textbooks, journals, endowed chairs, research funding and all the other components of the intellectual industry that is the study of marriage. As for the other 45 percent of the adult population, we’re still waiting for the scholarly spotlight to shine as brightly on us.
7. We need it, because we are shorted on the 1,136 federal benefits, protections, and privileges that are available only to people who are legally married. We need it, because there is housing discrimination, and there are tax penalties, pay disparities, and other high and discriminatory costs to living single.
8. We need it not just for the privileges and protections, but also for the opportunities to give and to care. Because I am single and don’t have any children, no one can take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for me if I fall ill. That’s a missing protection. I also can’t take time off under the same Act to care for a person who is important to me, such as a sibling, a nephew, or a close friend.
9. We need it, because there are now 110 million of us, and even without any of the opportunities offered to married people by policies such as FMLA, we are doing more than our share. In some significant ways, more of the work of holding together our networks, families, and communities, sustaining intergenerational ties, and caring for people who cannot care for themselves is done by single people than by married people.
10. We need it, because we have untapped political potential. For too many years, single people have been voting at lower rates than married people. If that changed, so would some of the most regressive policies in the nation.
11. We need it, because if single life were taken more seriously, then the relationship life of all people, single and married and everyone in between or on the side or undecided, would be expanded and enriched. Follow the finger of married people as they point to an important person in their life, and you will end up staring at a spouse. Follow the finger of a single person, and you may find yourself gazing at a close friend or a sibling or cousin or a mentor or a neighbor. Look more closely at that person, and maybe you will newly appreciate the importance of the entire category that person represents. Friendship, not marriage, is the key relationship of the 21st century.
12. We need it, because single people who live solo can show us that living alone is not the same as feeling alone. They remind us of something that is too seldom acknowledged in a society that so celebrates the buzz of social life, something that people of all marital statuses can appreciate—that solitude can be sweet.
13. We need it, because the de-stigmatizing of single life does not undermine marriage, it strengthens it. When single people can live their lives with all of the same respect, benefits, protections, and opportunities as people who are married, then those who want to marry are free. They can pursue marriage for the right reasons—not to run away from the stigma of being single, but to embrace the attractions of being married.
14. We need it, because when it comes to kids, love is the answer. As I show in Single Parents and Their Children: The Good News No One Ever Tells You, single parents can give quite a lot of that. Add all the other important people in the lives of single parents and their kids, and then you truly have a whole lot of love.
15. We need National Singles Week to change the default setting for the meaning of the word “single,” so that the next time you type it into your search engine, the first result to appear on your screen is not “Top 10 Dating Sites.”
16. We need Singles Week to urge people not to use “alone” and “unattached” as synonyms for single—those words are demeaning and untrue.
17. We need National Singles Week to spread the word that living single is no longer a default status or a way of marking time until the right one comes along. For some people, especially those who are single-at-heart, it is the way they live their best, most meaningful, and most authentic lives. (See, for example, “The Best of Single Life.”)
18. We need this week of celebration of living single as a counterpoint to all the celebrations of marriage and weddings and romantic coupling. Matrimania is not innocuous. Research shows that young women who are shown romantic images instead of images of learning (such as books and libraries) express less interest in science and technology. The same thing happens when they overhear conversations about dates instead of courses. A national study of more than 8,000 adolescents showed that those who became romantically involved became more depressed—even if they were still with the same romantic partner a year after the study started.
19. We need it, because the rise of single people, and of people living alone, is an unprecedented demographic revolution that is changing the way we live, the way we love, the way we vote, the way we do business, the way we age, and the way we think about what constitutes a meaningful life. A week for taking these trends seriously hardly seems like enough.
20. We need to value single people, because that’s what progressive nations do. They look for the people who have been marginalized and diminished, and invite them into the center of society. That way, we can all live happily ever after. (Quote source here.)
As one last reminder for this post regarding unmarried singles, the Apostle Paul was unmarried his entire life, and he wrote an entire chapter in 1 Corinthians 7 specific to the subject of marriage and singleness, and I’ll end this post with what he stated in verses 6-8 (NIV) regarding his own singleness: I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say…
It is good for them . . .
To stay unmarried . . .
As I do . . .
YouTube Video: “Ain’t Nobody” by Cody Carnes:
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You might enjoy checking out some of the historical data on single women. For example in the middle ages we suspect about one third of women were not married, which makes complete sense if you read about women like St. Hildegard of Bingen. We have all these mystics and saints and authors who are well documented.
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