Four in 10 Adults Between the Ages of 25 and 54 are Single, Up From 29% in 1990
by Sarah Todd
Nov. 9, 2021
The expectation that single people clock longer hours than their paired-up counterparts is one common complaint. “Lots of people I interviewed complained that their managers presumed they had extra time to stay at the office or take on extra projects because they don’t have family at home,” Eric Klinenberg, author of the 2013 book Going Solo, told The Atlantic last month.
And in some cases, being single can affect a person’s job prospects.
A recent Swiss study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, found that employers were more likely to offer job interviews to married men than to single men, even when their qualifications were otherwise the same. (It’s common to include marital status on resumes in Switzerland.)
Other singles simply feel marginalized in work cultures that assume their employees will be coupled up. “We’re going to have a team holiday party this year,” says communications executive Aimee Colton, “and it’s annoying because everyone brings their partner or spouse, and then I feel like I’m the 15th wheel.”
Why more people are staying single
These kinds of cultural expectations lag reality. Data show that singles make up an increasingly large portion of the adult population in the US. Four in 10 adults between the ages of 25 and 54 are single, up from 29% in 1990, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. (The survey defines single as being neither married nor living with a partner.)
…The reasons for the uptick are manifold. The age at which people get married is steadily increasing in many countries as people try to gain financial security and establish themselves in their careers. And economic instability, as well as educational disparities between men and women, may be making it harder for some people to find partners.
Bella DePaulo, the author of the book Singled Out, argues “more people than ever before want to be single.” She points to a 2020 survey from Pew Research Center that found half of single Americans said they weren’t looking to date or be in a relationship. The most common reasons they cited: They were prioritizing other parts of their lives at the moment, or were simply enjoying the single life.
[How workplaces can begin acknowledging the increased number of single adults] …
Recognize that single people still have loved ones
Even in 2021, companies often default to the nuclear family when considering their employees’ lives outside of work. “In workshops and training sessions, leaders sometimes ask questions based on the assumption that everyone has a romantic partner and/or kids—of course, some single workers do have kids,” says DePaulo.
But managers should be sensitive to the fact that employees’ relationships and responsibilities are not limited to just partners and children. That awareness will also make employers more attuned to the realities of people from marginalized groups, who may be less likely to live in traditional nuclear households.
Immigrants and people of color, for example, are more likely to live with members of their extended family.
….Treating the nuclear family as the default also has a negative impact on the growing constituency of single parents. A 2019 Pew report found that a quarter of children in the US live in single-parent households, more than any other country.
….When catching up with a single employee over coffee, it’s considerate to ask after the people in their life, just as one might inquire about a married colleague’s spouse.
… Employer Leave Policies
…He [Peter McGraw, behavioral economist] says that one concrete step workplaces can take to recognize the broad array of relationships people have is to create leave policies that allow people to care for any loved one.
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Related Posts on this blog:
(Link): This Headline Has My Fellow Conservatives In A Tizzy, but It Should Not: Just 18% of US households are ‘nuclear families’ with a married couple and children, down from 40% since 1970s and the lowest since 1959
(Link): Singles Advocate DePaulo Responds to Right Wing, Conservative Critics of Singlehood, Who Blame Singles For Breakdown of The Family (reminder: I myself am right wing)
(Link): “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site