|Statistics released last week by
the Census Bureau show that 100 million adults in the United
States are unmarried. This is up from a report showing 90
million unmarried adults just one year earlier.
Data also showed that unmarried
adults continue to head up a majority of households in the
These figures are based on the
American Community Survey for 2006. About three million
households from every county in the nation were included in the
Some 44.3 percent of adults are
currently unmarried. They include 12.2 million
widows and 3 million widowers, as well as 25 million men and
women who are divorced. In addition, there are 32.8
million men and 27.1 million women who have never married.
Last year's report showed that
married couples headed a minority of households for the first
time in U.S. history. The percent remained the same in
this year's report.
According to the 2006 American
Community Survey, unmarried adults headed up some 50.3 percent
of the nation's households, as well as a majority of households
in 22 states and more than 300 cities.
The configuration of these
unmarried households is quite diverse.
More than 30 million Americans
live alone, far outnumbering the 24.2 million households which
contain married couples with children under 18 years of age.
The 10.8 million single parent
homes include 2.5 million single dads with custody of their
children and 8.3 million single mothers.
About 12 million adults are
living with an unmarried partner while some 47 million unmarried
Americans are living with relatives.
The new Census Report was
released on the eve of Unmarried and Single Americans Week which
is commemorated during September 16 to September 22.
The growth of unmarried
households is not confined to the United States.
Statistics Canada, the equivalent of our Census Bureau, recently
released a report with data from 2006.
Some 50.8 percent of Canada's
12.4 million households are headed by unmarried adults.
The 3.4 million married-with-children living arrangements only
slightly outnumbered the 3.3 million one-person households.
Another 1.4 million homes
contained unmarried couples, 44 percent of whom are raising
children. A similar number of households contained single
For the first time, Canada
counted same-sex couples in its official census. The
report documented 45,350 households containing same-sex couples.
More than 7,000 of them were legally married.
The legal status of unmarried
people is vastly different in Canada than in the United States.
In Canada, the Supreme Court has
ruled that the federal Charter of Rights prohibits marital
status discrimination. Provincial and federal statutes
also provide a vast array of legal protections for unmarried
couples. Federal law recognizes the legality of same-sex
In the United States, federal
civil rights laws do not include marital status discrimination
and federal courts rarely find such discrimination by government
agencies to be a violation of the Constitution. The
federal Defense of Marriage Act specifically states that
same-sex relationships shall not be considered as legal
Data from Great Britain show that
slightly fewer than half of the 24.2 million households in that
nation contain a legally married couple. About 29 percent
of British households contain just one person.
The minority status of married
couples in British households can be attributed, in part, to the
fact that young Brits are delaying marriage.
The average age at
which people get married for the first time has continued
to rise. In 1971 the average age at first marriage was 25 for
men and 23 for women in England and Wales. By 2005 this had
increased to 32 for men and 29 for women.
While the United
Kingdom does not allow same-sex couples to legally marry, the
government has enacted a "civil partnership" law which affords
same-sex partnerships the same legal rights and protections as
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into
effect across the UK in December 2005. Between December 2005 and
September 2006, 15,700 civil partnerships were formed.
About 43 percent of British
children are now born to unmarried parents. This compares
with about 37 percent in the United States.
To read other editions of
Column One, click here.
Unmarried America 2007
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
email@example.com. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and