Know Your Single People

10 ways perceptions have not caught up with realities of singlehood

Posted Sep 20, 2009

It is SO not 1950 anymore! Singles don't have to wait until marriage to have houses, sex, children, travel experiences, or furniture from actual stores. In fact, they don't have to marry at all. And they can choose to skip over or around any or all of the steps and accoutrements of what used to be the Standard Path through adult life.

Problem is, too many Americans are caught in a cultural lag. Our perceptions of single people and their place in society have not caught up with the realities.

How well do you know your single people? This week, September 20-26, is National Singles Week (sometimes called Unmarried and Single Americans Week). To mark the kick-off of the week, see what you know about the actual place of singles in American society and about their lives by taking the quiz below.

Today's quiz is earnest. All of the questions and answers are serious. For a singles quiz more in the style of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, try this. And if you need to know why we need a National Singles Week, click here to check this out.

In this quiz, "singles" refer to all unmarried Americans 18 and older, whether they are divorced, widowed, or have always been single.

True or False? People who get married do not end up any happier than they were when they were single.

True or False? According to a national survey, more than 90% of Americans who had always been single rated their health as excellent or good.

True or False? Singles are the majority - there are more American adults who are unmarried than married.

True or False? Most single people live alone.

True or False? Single people do more than married people to maintain intergenerational ties and to reach out to neighbors, siblings, and friends.

True or False? Living single is something Americans do early in adulthood or much later. In fact, two-thirds of all unmarried Americans are either under 30 or over 64 years old.

True or False? Most unmarried Americans are either divorced or widowed. Adults who have always been single are rare.

True or False? Of the 95.9 million unmarried Americans, fewer than 1 million of them have children.

True or False? Three out of ten grandparents with primary responsibility for their grandchildren are unmarried.

True or False? Most of the 95.9 million unmarried Americans are living with a romantic partner.

[ANSWERS are at the very end of this post.]

Today on the National Singles Week BLOG CRAWL:

The National Singles Week blog crawl started today. Kimberly Dawn Neumann was the guest blogger on That Happened to Me, and she wrote, "I dated the ex of a Hollywood starlet." About the guest blogger: Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a popular New York City dating/relationship writer and author of The Real Reasons Men Commit: Why He Will - Or Won't - Love, Honor and Marry You and Sex Comes First: 15 Ways to Save Your Relationship - Without Leaving Your Bedroom. A Broadway performer in addition to being a writer, she has appeared on the Great White Way in such shows as A Chorus Line, Ragtime and Annie Get Your Gun. She is frequently called "The Carrie Bradshaw of Broadway" owing to her two careers. For more:

This Friday (September 25), Laura Dave, author of the novel The Divorce Party, will guest blog here on Living Single. The next day (Saturday September 26), I'll close out the blog crawl by guest blogging over at our friends at Onely.

To read more about the singles week blog crawl, click here. You will also find a complete schedule of the guest bloggers and the sites hosting them at the end of that post.

Singles Week Special: Give yourself or someone you know the gift of attitude - Single with Attitude, that is! You can get $3 off your purchase of the book between now and the end of Singles Week (September 26) when you order it from this website and use this coupon code during checkout: WR6PYUZQ. (You can also order it from Amazon as a paperback or Kindle version, but I can't create discounts on the Amazon pages.)

1. True. The vast majority of single people are happy. People who get married and stay married enjoy a small increase in happiness around the time of the wedding, but then they go back to being as happy or as unhappy as they were when they were single. People who marry and then divorce are already becoming less happy - rather than more so - as their wedding day approaches. Then, on the average, they become increasingly less happy until the year before their divorce becomes official.
2. True. 92.6% of always-single adults rated their health as excellent or good. In fact, the women who had always been single were more likely to rate their health as excellent or good than were the men who were currently married.
3. False. In 2007, the New York Times created a splash with the headline, "51% of women are now living without a spouse." However, they counted women who were 15 and older (rather than using the 18 and older criterion). Also, the 51% included women who were separated or whose husbands were living away from home for some reason (for example, because they were in the military). The number of unmarried Americans - men and women - who are 18 or older is 95.9 million. That's 43% of the adult population.
4. False. The 32.2 million Americans who DO live alone account for only about a third of all unmarried Americans.
5. True. Two national surveys showed that single Americans are more likely than married Americans to help, encourage, and socialize with their friends and neighbors, and visit, contact, advise, and support their parents and siblings.
6. False. Nearly half (46%) of all unmarried Americans are between the ages of 30 and 64.
7. False. 61% of all unmarried Americans have always been single. 24% are divorced and 15% are widowed.
8. False. There are 11.6 million single parents living with their children. Of those, 9.8 million are single mothers.
9. True. See the Census Bureau Facts for Features, Unmarried and Single Americans Week.
10. False. Only 13% of all unmarried Americans are cohabiting.

The Council on Contemporary Families published a fact sheet about singles and also issued a press release to mark Unmarried and Single Americans Week. Read them here.