Singleton Nation

Rise in single adult Americans since 1976

 

Check out the above chart that was published last week in a Bloomberg News article about a growing trend among Americans to stay single rather than marry.  For the first time ever, a majority of the adult US population is single.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics — which supplies the figures in its monthly jobs report — calculates the percentage of “selfies” as 50.2 percent, or 124.6 million adult Americans.  That’s up from 37.4 percent in 1976.

I see this shift as an indicator that the individual in our society is becoming more “atomized,” with individuals less connected to others in strong relationships.  Fewer marriages mean fewer children in marriages and more detachment from a sense of family.  This in turn can lead to a strong feeling of displacement, a feeling that there are no community bonds either.

In fact, only natural families can build natural communities that nurture young and old alike:  communities of faith and voluntary associations that include deep friendships based on trust. When a sense of belonging is gone and trust in others is diminished, people look for comfort in other places: shallow relationships, gangs, the anesthesia of drugs, and government programs.

It all makes for the perfect vacuum for the State to fill.  The State is always promoting its own brand of artificial community that can’t substitute for intimate bonds of love.  It’s been taking over the functions of family in policies like state-run childcare, elder care, health, and education.  People who feel isolated naturally look to these programs when there’s no place else to go.

But the silver lining is that 75 percent of adult Americans are either married or say they want to get married, according to a 2013 Gallup poll.  And when high school seniors were asked how important a good marriage was to them, the results were even more encouraging: 84.5 percent of girls and 77 percent of boys replied that it was “extremely important.”

So people still desire strong relationships, and they still say that they do.  We should remember that because it’s cause for optimism and offers a window of opportunity.  It means people really do believe in their hearts that strong family ties are the best way to defeat alienation and loneliness.  We need to reach out and find new and effective ways to convey the obvious truth that strong marriages make happy communities.

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