Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

More Stats on Singles: Gaps in the Data

Is it just me, or is there just not enough data on singles in this country?

It's interesting. When I was compiling the stats in my post, "The Hard Facts About Singles", I noticed that the various government agencies that regularly collect survey data don't often include marital status in their demographics. For instance, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics classified average weekly income by age, sex, and ethnicity, but there was no mention of marital status. Given that, especially among women, marital status is a significant factor in workforce participation, it seems strange that this information isn't front and center in their online tables.

Indeed, even though singles are such a large part of the population, statistics on their lives, opinions, work habits, families, and relationships can be harder to uncover than a government conspiracy. Because of this paucity of data, the picture we've painted of singles is like a Monet--impressionistic, sketchy on the detail. If researchers draw closer, we might discover that the faceless outlines of America's singles can be fleshed out. We might learn that what we thought was the whole picture is actually a combination of the varied, even contradictory brushstrokes that compose the facets of any single life.

Some gaps in our data on singles:

1. What is the breakdown of U.S. singles who are romantically unattached versus those who are cohabiting or otherwise in long-term relationships? While the financial and economic concerns of attached singles may be similar to those of the unattached, their emotional and social lives are likely to resemble those of married couples more than other singles.

2. Why are singles paid lower wages than their married colleagues? Are singles and marrieds evenly distributed across high-income jobs, or do singles congregate in careers that pay less? Do we know if age interacts with single status to affect income? That is, do singles earn less because they tend to be younger, or does this inequity persist no matter how many years they put in on the job? Do singles strive for raises and promotions with the same fervor that marrieds do? Does this statistic apply to divorced and widowed singles or only to singles who've never been married? I'm playing devil's advocate here not because I don't believe that discrimination against singles is a genuine threat in the workplace but because our case will be stronger if we can rule out arguments based on these questions.

3. The majority of singles (55%) aren't "actively seeking a partner." In a nation that still concludes most of its movies with a kiss betwee co-stars, this is counterintuitive. To better understand the changing face of singlehood, we need to know why these singles aren't looking. Are they truly more satisfied on their own? Are they scared of commitment because of the financial and emotional cost of divorce? Are they put off by some aspect of the dating scene? Have they given up because they can't find suitable partners? What does "actively seeking a partner" mean, anyway? It's one thing to make a weely tour of the bar circuit, fill out a dozen online profiles that ask for everything but your bank account, and hang out every Saturday in your supermarket by the TV dinners; systematically hunting down a compatible individual takes a concerted effort that not all of us have the time or inclination for, especially if past searches have proven fruitless or filled with more rejections than American Idol. But it's quite another thing to be completely content alone, and I wonder how many of those surveyed would prefer to be partnered but find the barriers to dating too high to climb in today's ultracompetitive meet market.

Can you shed some light on the gaps in our data? Do you know of a relevant research study or have anecdotal evidence to share? Tell Singletude about it!

Fun Link of the Day


Wizardry said...

Well, I can’t be so sure of statistics, but I can expound upon other aspects. “Actively seeking a partner” would, as well as I can describe, is someone looking for a romantic relationship, not just a quick physical fix, nor just an acquaintance to converse with and go places with. These people are usually looking to restore a lost ideal. People who have not had a real relationship don’t look for one with as much fervor as someone attempting to regain the feeling they once had when involved in a relationship. Usually, this desperation leads to unsuccessful relationships, and more pain and downcast nature. After repeating this time and time again, the person can begin to feel worthless because of their inability to maintain a stable relationship. From this renewed state of desperation, one of two things will occur. Either they will throw themselves upon any chance they can see, perpetuating the system further as they deepen their metaphorical hole, or they will cease to search all together.

Now, when speaking in direct reference to myself, I have opted for the second action. I no longer search for a combination of two reasons; first, I don’t believe I really have what it takes to maintain a stable relationship; I’m impatient, egocentric, and pessimistic. Until I am able to control these problems within my own consciousness I can’t realistically see myself in a stable relationship. The second reason is that I don’t believe that a true relationship need be sought out. Not to say that when it comes along you need do nothing; when opportunity arrives, I would take it, but I don’t need to go roaming for it, because it will come sooner or later. The second reason is far more biased, I know, but perhaps others feel the same.

Well then, until the moonlit rays supply the light by which to write…

Clever Elsie said...

You've brought up an interesting point about relationship-seeking behavior among people who've had previous relationships as opposed to those who haven't. While I'm not sure I'd say that those who haven't had relationships never long for them, there's actually some evidence that people who've been in love are more motivated to find partners than those who never have. (If only I could remember where I'd read about it, I'd write a blog on the subject!) I suppose it's a case of "you can't miss what you never had."

I DO think that it's natural for many people to want to find someone to share life with, but there's certainly a difference between looking out of a desire for companionship and looking out of desperation, as you noted. When people are desperate, they often make hasty, ill-advised choices.

It's possible that the singles who were surveyed interpreted "actively seeking a partner" as looking out of desperation. If so, it's encouraging that 55% of them said that they were not.

By the way, I think you have a lot of wisdom and insight into yourself to have assessed what you are and aren't ready for. So many people stumble around, blindly latching onto anything that feels good in the moment, and pay for it later. I applaud your decision to work on yourself before getting involved with someone else.

Anonymous said...

Singles and Career: Evidence that many people think it is acceptable to pay singles less than marrieds or people with 'official dependents'.

Recently I was looking at job postings on the World Health Organization Website. Each job posting included the salary for a 'single rate'and a different rate for an employee(doing the same job) with 'primary dependents'.

I was shocked that an organization that represents fair access to health resources for all of humanity would pay a single person thousands of dollars less to perform the same work.

Clever Elsie said...

Anonymous: That is shocking and shows just how deeply entrenched singlism is that even public agencies and nonprofits are blind to it! Thanks for sharing this.

By the way, I hate to nitpick, but the Singletude Guidelines specify that commenters must sign their comments. You don't need to give your first and last name--even initials or a handle will do--but you should identify yourself in some way on future comments. Thanks for your cooperation! :)