I like to ask people their opinions about the best kinds of places to be single. One answer seems to be more popular than any other: cities.
There are several reasons why single people might find cities attractive. Maybe people in cities are more diverse and open-minded; if so, then maybe single people are less likely to run into the attitude that there is something wrong with them for being single.
Cities can also be easy to navigate, with no need for a car. Step out of the place where you live, and there are lots of restaurants and shops and services and events nearby.
Another consideration is numbers. Maybe there are proportionately more single people in cities, whereas suburbs and rural areas are more dominated by married couples and nuclear families. That could be important if you like having other singles around as potential friends (or dates, but that doesn’t interest me).
Numbers can also be important in shaping attitudes and practices. When there are a lot of single people where you live, those who may be tempted to stereotype or stigmatize or marginalize or discriminate against single people are less likely to get away with it. Gathering strength from numbers, singles will challenge the singlism.
Thanks to a new report from the Pew Research Center, we now have data on the number of single and married people in U.S. cities, suburbs, and rural areas.
Overall, averaging across all races and ethnicities, it is true that there are more single people in cities and more married people in suburbs and rural areas.
% married people, overall
The same pattern shows up specifically for white people.
Whites: % of married people
Among Hispanics, there are also more married people in suburbs and rural areas than in cities.
Hispanics: % of married people
Among Blacks, there are more married people in suburbs than in cities, but only a shade more in rural areas.
Blacks: % of married people
The numbers shown above average across all single (and married) people, regardless of whether they are parents. For single parents, though, the trends are a bit different. The Pew researchers did not directly report the percentages of single parents in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Instead, they reported the percentage of all births that were to unmarried mothers.
As you can see (below), it is in the rural areas, rather than in cities, where the greatest proportion of births are to unmarried mothers.
% of births to unmarried mothers, overall
Looking separately at Whites and Blacks, again, for both groups, the proportion of births to unmarried women is greatest in rural areas.
Whites: % of births to unmarried mothers
Blacks: % of births to unmarried mothers
For Hispanics, the pattern flips and the proportion of births to unmarried women is greatest in cities.
Hispanics: % of births to unmarried mothers
I think these statistics matter. If you are single, you will probably feel more comfortable in places where there are lots of other single people. But I also think there will be lots of exceptions. Interpersonally, if you can find people you care about and who care about you, that probably matters more than whether you are in a city or suburb or rural area.