The American Family: Increasingly Isn’t

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The Pew Research Center issued a report today titled by its conclusion. “Rising Shares of U.S. Adults are Living Without a Spouse or Partner.” The study utilized data from 2019 and found that it is isn’t just marriage that’s in decline. More and more people are living alone.

The trends are fairly consistent over 30 years. The bookends look like this:

1990                2019

Living Alone               29%                 38%

Cohabiting                  4                      9

Married                       67                    53

Thirty years ago the number of women living alone equaled the number of men similarly situated. Today men are holding that majority. Meanwhile the economic and social implications are apparent. It may be frustrating at times, but it is cheaper to live together. It means having to adapt to a partner and listen to them complain. But those things are therapeutic more often than not. When we hear stories about anti-social behavior ranging from rudeness to mass shootings, the perpetrator is commonly reported to be single and “living alone.” This solitude is not episodic. Pew found that one-third of those living alone have never been married; a number that has doubled since 1990.

The salutary effects of living with a partner of some kind are apparent. People living in relationships are 1/3 more likely to complete an undergraduate degree. While women have a consistent track record of employment without regard to whether they have an adult partner, solo men are 25% less likely to be employed and almost 3x as likely to be financially vulnerable (earning $20,000 or less). The median earnings of men without a partner were just under $36,000. Those with a partner had median earnings of $57,000. This data translates to where unpartnered men are living. 31% are residing with a parent whereas the number for womenless is 24%.

It would seem that freedom of choice is not yielding happy results. In 19th century America parents more or less demanded their adult offspring marry and move on, even if the arrangement did not seem felicitous. Today, most parents are letting their kids decide where to live and when to marry. This seems like added freedom and less pressure, but the economic and educational results are not promising.

Match.com did not sponsor this blog or the Pew study. But perhaps they should.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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