First Comprehensive Study of Single Americans Reveals Changing Attitudes
The largest and most comprehensive nationally representative study of single men and women ever done dispels long-held beliefs about singles in America. Although there are 105 million singles in the United States, representing one-third of the population, these women and men have gone largely unstudied -- even as their attitudes and behaviors are shaping America’s cultural norms and challenging traditional foundations. Based on this groundbreaking study, a new picture of single Americans emerges that is radically different than it was 50 years ago when the median age of first marriage for women was 20 and only 10% of women ages 25-29 were not married. The single today is defying gender and age stereotypes, adopting new dating habits and changing the very definition of relationships.
The study of singles in America was funded by Match.com and conducted by MarketTools in association with biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, social historian Stephanie Coontz, evolutionary biologist Justin Garcia and the Institute for Evolutionary Studies at Binghamton University (EvoS). The study, based on the attitudes and behaviors of a representative sample of 5,200 U.S. single people ages 21 to 65+, is the most comprehensive survey of American singles ever undertaken.
“I’m amazed this study hasn’t been done before but in my literature search I’ve found nothing as comprehensive,” says Dr. Fisher. “Moreover, I am fascinated to learn that men are just as eager to marry and have children, and more eager to compromise in a relationship. In fact, today’s singles are returning to dating patterns that are highly compatible with our ancient human brain ... With a few remarkable exceptions: men are now expressing some traditionally female attitudes while women are adopting some of those long attributed to men! This survey busts some entrenched myths about women, men, sex and love.”
The new monogamy: Singles are not desperate to marry and have children. Seventy-two percent of singles would live with someone in the future without marrying. In the 21-34 age group, 62% of single women and men want to marry, 9% do not and 29% aren’t certain about marriage. For singles ages 35-44, those numbers drop further. In that category, 40% of singles 35-44 want to wed, 19% do not and 42% aren’t certain.
Men are quicker to fall in love, more likely to want children: Fifty-four percent of men say they have experienced love at first sight, versus 44% of women. Among singles without children under 18, more men (24%) than women (15%) say they want children.
Women want more independence in their relationships than men do: Across every age group, women want more personal space in a committed relationship, as well as more nights out with their (girl) friends; they are also more likely to want their own bank account and to take vacations on their own.
Women’s attitudes and behaviors differ: Both single women and men have adopted more progressive attitudes toward gender roles. Forty-nine percent of women disagree that women should be the primary caregiver (versus 38% of men). Eighty-seven percent of women say they would pick up the check on a date under some circumstances, and 85% of women believe that it’s possible to have a successful career and relationship at the same time. However, women’s behavior does not always reflect their evolving beliefs. In the past year, 89% of women have not asked someone out on a date and 48% of women typically wait for the other person to reach out after the first date. With a new partner, women still prefer their partners to initiate sex.
Prejudice waning; singles more open-minded when dating: Only 20% of men and 29% of women regard it as a must have or very important to find someone from their own ethnic background, while only 17% of men and 28% of women must have or say it is very important to find someone of the same religion.
Singles remain romantic: Forty-one percent believe in love at first sight and 76% believe they can stay married forever, if they marry. Twenty-nine percent of singles report having remained intensely in love with their last partner for 2-5 years; 8% remained intensely in love 6-10 years and 18% said the feeling of intense romantic love lasted more than 10 years.
Fidelity is a must: Sixty-nine percent of singles regard fidelity as a must have; in the case of 46% of the singles, either one or both partners have been unfaithful and 78% of these broke up after the discovery. Seventy percent believe that divorce is acceptable after one or both partners cheat.
“As the leader in the online dating space, we believe that studying singles across age, gender, ethnicity and sexual preference will not only help us to better understand the population that we serve, but will evolve America’s understanding of singles, shape public discourse, influence policy and spawn further academic study,” said Mandy Ginsberg, general manager and executive vice president of Match.com.