Single Population Continues to Grow
Sept 18-24 is Unmarried and Single Americans Week – a good time to take note of the important role that single people play in our society.
Unmarried and Single American’s Week celebrates the lives of 99.6 million Americans, close to half (43.6 percent) of U.S. residents who are 18 and older. It began in Ohio in the 1980s to celebrate single life and the contribution that single people make to society. It is now widely observed during the third week of September as “Unmarried and Single Americans Week,” an acknowledgment that many unmarried Americans do not identify with the word “single” because they are parents, have partners or are widowed.
The recent U.S. Census and other research reveal that singles are a diverse group. Some have not yet married but eventually will. Some are divorced or widowed. Some have chosen to live their entire lives single. In terms of their living situation, some live alone, some cohabit with a romantic partner, others share homes with family members or friends.
All too often, single and unmarried Americans are ignored when it comes to discussing family issues, especially when they don’t have children. Government officials, politicians, and religious groups tend to think that work/family issues are irrelevant to single people, stereotypically portraying singles as being unencumbered by family obligations, or even as self-centered individuals who do not contribute to the community the way married couples do.
The facts reveal a different story:
- Adult unmarried children are more likely to provide practical assistance to their parents than their married siblings. It is unmarried women who are mostly likely to assist their mothers and fathers. While 68 percent of married women give help to their parents, 84 percent of the never-married provide such care. And while just 38 percent of married men help out their parents, 67 percent of never-married men do.
- At all educational and income levels, unmarried individuals not only have more friends than their married counterparts, but give these friends more care, both practical and emotional. They also visit with their neighbors and help them out more than the married.
- The unmarried spend more time assisting their siblings than the married, often playing important roles in the lives of their brothers and sisters as well as their nieces and nephews. Unmarried individuals account for three out of every ten grandparents who are the primary care-givers for their grandchildren.
- Research refutes the myth that unmarried males do not maintain ties with their families. Married women talk on the phone to their parents and siblings less often than those who never got married, or who left or lost a husband. But the difference in phone talk is especially dramatic for men. While many husbands rely on wives to call their relatives, men without wives make the connection themselves.
- Married people volunteer more than unmarried, in part because they volunteer in activities their children are involved in and because they volunteer more for religious groups. But more than 20 percent of unmarried Americans do volunteer, and in 2005 their estimated volunteer hours came to nearly 900 million hours of service. The top activities were mentoring, teaching, and coaching other people’s children, fundraising for charities, and distributing or serving food. It’s also worth remembering that about one-third of the firefighters who died serving their community on 9/11 were unmarried.
- In important ways, the unmarried are more likely than the married to be politically engaged: Comparing women with the same level of education, never-married are more likely than wives to sign petitions and participate in political gatherings.