The United States Census
Bureau released data today which shows a continuing decline in
married-couple households and a corresponding increase in the percent of
households headed by unmarried adults. If the trend continues,
within the next year or two unmarried adults will become the "new
majority" in terms of America's living arrangements.
The American Community
Survey (ACS) results were released in connection with a press conference
conducted today by the United States Census Bureau. ACS estimates
are based on monthly samples of households throughout the nation
taken during January through December 2004, in which more than 700,000
responses are analyzed.
The 2004 survey shows that
about 49.8 percent of the nation's 109.9 million housing units have a
head of household who is not married. That is up from 44.9 percent
as reported by the full census in 1990 and 48.3 percent by the full
census in 2000.
The living arrangements of
unmarried households are very diverse. Some 29.6 million people
live alone. Other unmarried households include 8.3 single mothers,
and 2.4 single dads.
Adult blood relatives are
living together in about 8 million households, while the remaining 6.4
million households contain unmarried partners or roommates.
Just as the nation's households
are being transformed into a mosaic of diversity, so is the nation's
workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about 42
percent of the workforce is unmarried and that about 65 percent of
American workers do not have minor children at home.
Public officials and government agencies have
begun to pay more attention to unmarried and single Americans in recent
For example, mayors and governors in about 33
states have issued proclamations declaring the third week of September
to be "Unmarried and Single Americans Week." This year the Census
Bureau issued a special press release to acknowledge the occasion, just
as it acknowledges Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Grandparents Day each
Some governors have gone way beyond the
symbolism of proclamations and have signed substantive measures into
law. Republican Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and
George Pataki of New York have approved bills in recent years giving
rights and benefits to unmarried couples.
Schwarzenegger currently has another major
bill on his desk (AB 1400) and must soon decide whether to approve the
addition of "marital status" to a state statute which prohibits
businesses from discriminating against consumers. Such a new law
would have ramifications for insurance companies, health clubs, and
automobile associations which often give discounts to married couples
while denying them two two unmarried customers.
Democratic Governor Bill Richardson of New
Mexico successfully spearheaded a measure into law which requires
insurance companies to keep unmarried adult children on their parent's
health plan at work until the child reaches 26 years of age.
Similar legislation is pending in New Jersey.
Employers are also making adjustments in the
workplace to accommodate the new "unmarried majority." There are
now more than 8,000 employers offering domestic partner benefits.
"Family leave" is beginning to be replaced by
"paid time off" where each employee gets the same number of leave days
for personal matters regardless of whether they are married or have
policies have been growing in popularity each year since they were first
introduced in the 1990s, according to CCH Inc., a human resources firm
in Chicago that studies nationwide trends in the workplace. In a 2004
survey of employers, 63% of respondents indicated having paid leave bank
programs, up from 27% in 1999.
who have adopted PTOs are noticing a change for the better. So
have some of their employees.
According to a
physical therapist who works in Pittsburgh, she has used only three sick
days in eight years. But by not needing those extra days, the therapist
who is unmarried without children, says she lost two weeks of paid time
off when she left her last job. With PTO she feels free to use the time
as she wants.
Some cruise lines and travel companies are
also reacting to the rise in unmarried households by eliminating the
dreaded "singles supplement" which has been used by some travel
businesses to impose surcharges on those who travel alone.
According to the U.S. Bureau
of Labor Statistics, single people accounted for $1.6 trillion in annual
spending in 2002. With a slight change in marketing strategy auto groups
used cars Phoenix could see a rapid influx in sales by targeting
single individuals in their advertisements.
With politicians always looking for political
contributions and businesses always seeking to increase profits,
unmarried voters and single consumers may gain favor with lawmakers and
corporate executives before the Census Bureau eventually declares that
we have officially entered the era of the new "unmarried majority."
Numbers may count, but money talks.
Unmarried America 2005
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 America. E-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and