In my studies of single people, I’m just as interested in single men as single women. But I seem to be the exception. Overwhelmingly, people who blog about single life or opine about it or even write scholarly books or articles about it, focus on single women.
I think a big part of the reason for that is that single life is supposedly more of an issue for women than for men. Women are presumably more interested in marriage than men are, so if they end up single, that’s sometimes believed to be a big problem in ways that would not be true of men. Now these kinds of beliefs may well be bogus. But they can still drive thinking and writing.
Maybe there’s another reason why people who write about singles write mostly about single women. Maybe there are more women than men who stay single for life.
Do you think that’s true?
Here’s my true confession: I’ve been studying single people for two decades, and I have never looked up the answer to that question until now. I purposefully stay away from comparing the number of single women and single men, because too often, when people do that, they are interested in dating and mating prospects. In my career and in my life, I’ve been interested in every aspect of single life except dating and other attempts to escape single life.
Recently, though, someone asked me to help her interpret Census data on this question, so I looked very closely at the numbers. For the youngest adults, I expected to find more lifelong single men (men who had never married) than lifelong single women because, among those who marry for the first time, men are typically older than women.
Sure enough, there were more lifelong single men than lifelong single women at ages 18-19. Same for ages 20-24. Same for ages 25-29, by a lot.
By the time people get into their 30s, aren’t there more women than men who have never been married?
Turns out: No. There are still more lifelong single men than women among people in the 30-34 age group, and in every other age group all the way up to ages 55-64.
The specific numbers are below. You can see that there are more never married men than never married women at every age group from 18-19 through 55-64.
I also looked at percentages:
Among all men, what percent have never been married?
Among all women, what percent have never been married?
In parentheses, you will see the differences between those two numbers.
I wanted to look at percentages as well as numbers because women live longer than men. At the older ages, there could be more lifelong single women than single men because there are more women, total. As you will see, this only mattered for the group of people in the 65-74 age group. There were more lifelong single women than men in that group, but by a very small amount, a greater percentage of men than women were never married.
Census Bureau data, from 2016
Ages 18-19: 217,000 more lifelong single men (1% difference)
Ages 20-24: 816,000 more lifelong single men (5.9% difference)
Ages 25-29: 1,467,000 more lifelong single men (12.3% difference)
Ages 30-34: 992,000 more lifelong single men (10% difference)
Ages 35-39: 529,000 more lifelong single men (5.8% difference)
Ages 40-44: 192,000 more lifelong single men (2.5% difference)
Ages 45-49: 495,000 more lifelong single men (5.4% difference)
Ages 50-54: 374,000 more lifelong single men (4% difference)
Ages 55-64: 225,000 more lifelong single men (1.9% difference)
Ages 65-74: 91,000 more lifelong single women
(but the % of all men who are lifelong singles is .3 greater than the % of all women who are lifelong singles)
Ages 75-84: 172,000 more lifelong single women (1.6% difference)
Ages 85+: 78,000 more lifelong single women (.8% difference)
In summary, there are more men than women who have never been married at every age group from the 18-19 year-olds all the way up through the 55-64 year-olds. Only at ages 65 and older are there more lifelong single women than lifelong single men. If we look at the percentage of all women and men who have never been married, then it is only at ages 75 and up that there is a greater percentage of all women than all men who have been single all their lives.
I think it is time for lifelong single men to get more attention. We need to know more about their lives.