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Why rising number of single men is a matter of worry

A new study by Pew Research Center in the US suggests that single people are economically disadvantaged and less healthy  

In the last 30 years, the population of single men has increased 39% in the US.
In the last 30 years, the population of single men has increased 39% in the US. (Unsplash)

While being single offers lot of advantages in terms of personal freedom, in a highly volatile economy, it's can prove to be challenge. In the last three decades, the share of people living single during their prime working years has grown has grown from 29% to 38% in the US, states a new study by Pew Research Center. What's more interesting is that there has been sharper increase in men than women, who have been living without a partner or romantic relationship. The highlights the economic as well as health risk such a trend presents, economists believe. 

While both sexes in the single population contributed to 29% in 1990, it jumped to 39% for men and 36% for women by 2019. Besides this, close to 28% of single people between the ages of 25 to 54 are living with their parents, compared to 2% for married or partnered couples.  

The unpartnered population, researchers said, earns less and has less education, and unpartnered men, in particular, are less likely to be employed.  As a result, he study emphsises the economic advantages of being married, especially as the share of single people in the U.S. has grown over the past three decades.

Jessica Kaschube has relied on the economic advantages of being married to pursue her career. During almost a dozen years of marriage, the extra income from her husband’s more stable jobs — and his health insurance — has enabled Kaschube to move from Montana to Alabama to Florida, advancing her career as a theater administrator in an arts profession known for low pay and instability.

“Each move allowed me to make another jump in my career path. He always had a stable income,” said Kaschube, 35, who lives in metro Orlando. “Because I had health insurance and a spouse that had an income, we could always pay our bills. We weren’t rolling in money, but that was a privilege.”

According to Richard Fry, a senior economist at Pew, policymakers should take notice since the unpartnered population is generally economically disadvantaged and less healthy compared to married people or those living with a romantic partner. 

“When we look at their health outcomes, they are more likely to engage in risky behavior such as binge drinking. Single adults don’t live as long," Fry said. "Single adults are an at-risk population.”

However, other experts warn that the study may further stigmatise the single population. "If it is used as a way of telling a misleading story about those poor single people and what is supposedly wrong with them," says Bella DePaulo, a research psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"Yes, single people are paid less, have fewer resources available to them when they need help, and are disadvantaged in other ways, too. But some of that — maybe a lot of it — is based on discrimination against single people, not on anything that is supposedly wrong with them," DePaulo said.

The rise in single people has been driven by a three-decade decline in marriage. The share of adults ages 25 to 54 who are married dropped from two-thirds in 1990 to just over half in 2019, and the share of people who have never married grew from 17% to 33%. While the unpartnered population includes people who are separated, divorced or widowed, all the growth comes from people who have never been married, the Pew report revealed.

Single women, the reported indicated, earned more in 1990, but their advantage was reversed by 2019 as partnered women became more likely to remain in the workforce. Single men, meanwhile, have fallen further behind partnered men in earnings and education. Researchers have concluded it’s a combination of high-income men being more attractive as partners, and cohabitating boosting men’s economic fortunes.

“We have a ‘chicken or egg' problem. It's a little bit of both, especially for guys," Fry said. “They are assessed on their financial capabilities, so some of this is because the unpartnered guys tend to have lower earnings. They are having a harder time. They are considered a less suitable partner. It’s low earnings and being less educated that is causing them to be unpartnered."

Despite the disadvantages, many single people find that the rewards of being unattached outweigh any economic benefits of being partnered. That includes DePaulo, who wrote an essay for Medium last month celebrating her 50th anniversary of being single as she turned 68.

“Single people are doing quite well in many ways, despite all the ways they are unfairly disadvantaged relative to people who are married or coupled," DePaulo said. Single people invest more in friendships and enjoy more freedom and solitude, and some studies show they are happier over time, she added.

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