Majority of Americans Are Single Now, a Major Shift From the ’70s

How will they impact the economy?

According to a report by economist Edward Yardeni, a majority of Americans are now single, says Bloomberg Businessweek. And economists predict the rising single population will effect the economy, with singles less likely to spend money on children and homes. 

Just 37 percent of Americans 16 and older were single in 1976, but more than half are unmarried today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What constitutes single? The report counted anyone who’s not married—but the economic effects will likely be triggered specifically by singles who live alone rather than by unmarried domestic partners. Men primarily fueled a 10.5 percent rise in single households, per the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report noted a few potential economic benefits of a rising singles population:

  • Singles are more flexible and mobile in terms of career changes and relocations, meeting the needs of the labor market.
  • Unmarried people are more likely to start new companies or become entrepreneurs.
  • Budgeting and saving money is generally easier for people who live alone.

Among the potential pitfalls are:

  • A one-person household is more vulnerable to the impacts of job loss or income reduction due to illness or injury.
  • Singles are less likely to spend money, which can negatively impact the economy.
  • Unmarrieds are less likely to have children, which means fewer future taxpayers and elderly caregivers.
  • Singles are more likely to rent than to buy homes, which will change the real estate market.

And while the relative flexibility of singles could promote economic growth, their rise could also trigger more income inequality and instability, Yardeni wrote.