The single population is growing, and it’s time to grow up with it | CU Boulder today
Recent data from the Pew Research Center shows that nearly half of American adults are single, and half of that population is not interested in dating. Yet being in a relationship and ultimately a marriage continues to be a society’s expectation.
The Pew Report sheds light on a changing narrative, said Peter McGraw, professor of marketing and psychology at the Leeds School of Business. The culture in America is changing and the data shows people are less dependent than ever on partnerships.
Yet there remains a social hierarchy based on relational status.
“My research reveals that a hierarchy based on relationship status can be detrimental for people for whom the partnership is not suitable,” said McGraw. “Life shouldn’t be seen as better because you’re in a partnership, it should just be seen as different. “
McGraw, who is widely known for his research on humor, is one of the first researchers to scientifically examine solos. Single himself, he has also become an advocate for living single and living remarkably well.
“There are 128 million single American adults, and 25% of millennials should never marry,” McGraw said. “It’s time for a new playbook.”
Why we see more singles
The boom in the single adult population isn’t because people are just anti-marriage, McGraw said. Economic data shows that improvements in well-being, such as access to education, increased economic opportunities, and a social safety net, provide more opportunities for Americans to deviate from tradition.
The trend is observed even among those who ultimately choose marriage: data from the US Census Bureau shows that the average age of first marriage in 2020 was 30 for men and 28 for women, up sharply from to 2000, when men typically married at 27 and women at 25. The average age of first marriage has increased steadily for both sexes since 1970.
“What this suggests is that people are able to act more according to their own wants, wants, needs and goals,” McGraw said. “Some people see the decline of marriage as associated with the decline of society, but I see the opposite.”
Yet the challenges of living solo still persist, especially for black and LGBTQ + communities already marginalized, who represent a disproportionate share of the single population in the United States
One of the biggest challenges is access to housing. A The 2021 National Association of Realtors report estimates that the United States is 5.5 million dwellings below what is needed to house the population. House prices have also increased exponentially, especially since the start of the pandemic – the Federal Housing Finance Agency reports that house prices rose 17.4% between the second quarter of 2020 and the second quarter 2021.
Rising home prices coupled with lack of inventory doesn’t bode well for singles, McGraw said.
“Half of America’s adult population is single, living on one income, but buying a home today is really designed for a two-income family,” McGraw said. “Residential zoning always prioritizes single-family homes, which are quite expensive, as opposed to single-person housing – like condos and shared living spaces which keep costs down and create a sense of community. “
Singles are also more focused on pets as partners or the ability to travel frequently, which challenges the architecture of a traditional work environment, McGraw said.
The focus on partnerships is a fabric of our being, woven into corners of everyday life that we don’t even recognize: the two front seats in a car, family discounts at the gym, meal kits designed for couples. and families, tables in restaurants almost always arranged to seat at least two people.
It’s these characteristics of society that contribute to the way we look at singles, McGraw said. He argues that businesses can help break down these barriers by focusing more attention on a single population.
“A lot of businesses are competing for the same types of people because they have bad assumptions about what those people need,” McGraw said. “They are trying to find underserved markets but neglect the 128 people who make up the single market.”
McGraw has started a new project called One glimpse aimed at helping companies recognize the solos in the market and adjust their tactics to better serve this population.
“Serving solos requires different perspectives,” McGraw said. “Solos have more latitude in how they spend their money and what they spend. They are more mobile in the way they live and work and what they do for fun.