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Is It True that Cities Are for Singles, and Suburbs and Rural Areas for Married Couples?

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

44%, urban

50%, suburban

51%, rural

The same pattern shows up specifically for white people.

Whites: % of married people

49%, urban

53%, suburban

54%, rural

Among Hispanics, there are also more married people in suburbs and rural areas than in cities.

Hispanics: % of married people

42%, urban

45%, suburban

45%, rural

Among Blacks, there are more married people in suburbs than in cities, but only a shade more in rural areas.

Blacks: % of married people

26%, urban

32%, suburban

27%, rural


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

36%, urban

34%, suburban

39%, rural

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

20%, urban

26%, suburban

33%, rural

Blacks: % of births to unmarried mothers

68%, urban

63%, suburban

79%, rural

For Hispanics, the pattern flips and the proportion of births to unmarried women is greatest in cities.

Hispanics: % of births to unmarried mothers

45%, urban

41%, suburban

42%, rural

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.

Photo by 5chw4r7z

Is It True that Cities Are for Singles, and Suburbs and Rural Areas for Married Couples?

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2018). Is It True that Cities Are for Singles, and Suburbs and Rural Areas for Married Couples?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 23 Jul 2018
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