From what we read in
magazines, hear on radio, and see on television and in
movies, one would think that most single people either have
a steady lover, are cohabiting with a significant other, or
are actively seeking a romantic partner. Not so.
Results of a national
survey released by the Pew Research Center earlier this year
show that those who hold such a belief are sorely mistaken.
Most singles are not in a romantic relationship nor are they
actively seeking one.
The Pew Research Center
describes itself as a nonpartisan "fact tank"
that provides information on the
issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.
The survey, conducted
during the fall of 2005, found that 43 percent of adults
(then 87 million people) say they are single. This
figure corresponds with data from the Census Bureau.
Here are some
interesting findings of the singles survey:
of single people report no active interest in seeking a
romantic partner. This is especially true for women, for
those who have been widowed or divorced, and for older
of unmarried adults are in a "committed relationship."
said they are currently looking for a romantic partner.
younger unmarried adults, the quest to find romance is not
very prominent. About 38% of singles ages 18-29 say they are
not currently looking for a romantic partner, compared to
22% in that age cohort who are looking for partners. The
rest say they are already in committed relationships.
Nearly half of
the younger singles who are seeking relationships say they
date rather infrequently. Some 49% say they had been on no
more than one date in the previous three months.
So if 55 percent
of all single people, and 38 percent of young singles, are
not actively seeking a romantic partner, what does this mean
for our marriage-centered society?
Philip Morgan, a
Duke University sociology professor who helped prepare the
Pew survey on singles, says that after years of believing
that single people must want to be married, Americans should
now consider the possibility that this simply isn't true.
If single people
are not spending a lot of time searching for a potential
marriage partner, then what are they doing with their time?
houses on their own, having children on their own, and even
planning to retire on their own." That's what the
Boston Globe said in a feature story it published about
single people last June.
There are a lot
of myths and stereotypes about single people -- who they
are, how they feel, what their interests are, and how much
better off they would be if they were married. Not a
lot of solid research has focused on the lives and concerns
of single people.
We would all
know much more about this growing segment of our society if
the American media would do some serious investigative
reporting about single people. As it now stands, most
reporting about singles focuses on dating, matchmaking,
romance, and failed romance. What about the other 95
percent of the lives of single people?
newspaper editors, television producers, and radio talk show
hosts don't think that the everyday interests of single
people are sexy enough to sell more papers or attract larger
audiences. They don't see single people as a potential
target of marketing. If this is the way they feel, then they
should think again.
spend $1.6 trillion annually. They comprise more than
42 percent of the American workforce, 35 percent of voters
nationally, and head up the majority of households in the
nation. In dozens of media markets, there are now
"super unmarried majorities" where more than 70 percent of
households are maintained by unmarried adults.
marital status trends over the past few decades, it is
likely that America will become even less marriage oriented
in years to come. The fact that a majority of American
households are now unmarried should have captured the
attention of corporate executives who control media
programming or at least sparked an interest by media
It's time for
broadcast and print journalism in this country to devote
some serious time and space to the concerns and needs of
Unmarried America. As the Pew survey demonstrates, the
lives of single people involve much more than dating and