Kamala Harris Was Single Until She Was 50 Years Old

How common is it to get to 50 without marrying?

Posted Nov 08, 2020

This is Kamala Harris’s moment. She is the Vice President-elect of the United States, and as the New York Times noted, “Her victory represents a handful of firsts: She will be the first woman, the first Black woman, the first Indian-American woman, and the first daughter of immigrants to be sworn in as vice president.”

The moment has been marked by quite a lot of effusing over her personal life—including her marriage, her husband, her stepchildren, her nieces, and her cooking. But there is one noteworthy biographical highlight that I have not seen mentioned anywhere, except in Vicki Larson’s Medium post back in July of 2019: Kamala Harris was single until she was 50 years old. In fact, she did not meet the man who would become her husband until she was 49.

That, to me, is something worth celebrating. Here is someone with a remarkable biography, and the first 49 years of her accomplishments happened while she had no spouse. I have no inside information about her, but my impression is that she would have continued to lead a full, joyful, and amazing life if she stayed single. Maybe, considering all the singlist attitudes, she would not have been selected as Joe Biden’s running mate if she were spouseless, but that’s about societal prejudices, and not about her.

How Common Is It in the U.S. to Get to 50 Without Ever Having Married?

According to 2019 data from the Current Population Survey, reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, about 16 percent of Americans got to their late 40s without ever having married. Among those in their early fifties (50-54), 13 percent had been single all their life. Contrary to the stereotypes, many of these lifelong single people are thriving, as I’ve documented many times before.

What’s more, the number of Americans who get to the age of 50 without ever having married is very likely to increase. A Pew Research Report from 2014 predicted that by the time today’s young adults reach the age of 50, about one in four of them will have been single their whole life. That’s nearly twice as many lifelong singles of that age as we have now.

Maybe the numbers will be even higher than that. With apologies to readers who are tired of hearing about my favorite statistic, a Pew survey of solo single people conducted in 2019 found that 50 percent were not interested in a romantic relationship or even a date.

How Likely Is It That You Will Marry If You Have Never Been Married?

In one of the most notorious stories ever published about single women, Newsweek claimed that 40-year-old women who had never married were “more likely to get killed by a terrorist” than to ever get married. That was in 1986. Two decades later, they recanted.

What are the actual statistics? For people like me who are single at heart and love being single, the answer is simple: The likelihood that we will marry is about zero. We’re not interested in that.

For those who may be interested in marrying, though, there are some reliable statistics. In 2014, the American Community Survey and the Pew Research Center summarized data from 2012. Unsurprisingly, the likelihood that you will marry depends on your age.

Among adults in the U.S. who had never been married, over a 12-month period:

  • 71 out of 1,000 got married if they were between 25 and 34 years old
  • 40 out of 1,000 got married if they were between 35 and 44
  • 16 out of 1,000 got married if they were between 45 and 54
  • 7 out of 1,000 got married if they were 55 and older

What If Kamala Harris Had Never Married and Was Chosen to be Vice President?

To me, it would be a proud day for America if Kamala Harris stood on a stage as the Vice President-elect and a lifelong single person. But who would be standing there with her? That should not be a difficult question, regardless of a Vice President’s or any other leader’s marital or relationship or parental status. Why not welcome the people who are most important to you, regardless of whether they are family?

As I watched Harris’s husband standing there next to her last night, I thought about the fact that she hadn’t even met him until she was 49. And I wondered about all the other people she loves who have been in her life for decades. Her lifelong friends, for example. I’d love to see them up there. Perhaps, as the number of lifelong single people continues to grow, we will start to see changes like that. That, too, would be a very good thing.