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Never married, living alone: Number of young singles 'dramatically' rises

The percentage of young adults who are single and not living with a partner has "risen dramatically" in the past decade.
/ Source: TODAY

While the summer season is typically jam-packed with weddings, don’t count on lots of millennials to be the ones saying “I do” — and if they come as guests, chances are they won’t be going home to a significant other.

The percentage of young adults who are single and not living with a romantic partner has “risen dramatically” in the past decade, from 52 percent in 2004 to 64 percent in 2014, according to a trend analysis released by Gallup on Monday.

Young woman watching tv home in sofa
“I don’t think it’s because people are giving up on romance," a sociologist said.Luis Viegas / Shutterstock

It’s no secret that Americans are waiting longer to get hitched and that U.S. marriage rates are dropping, but the Gallup data shows 18- to 29-year-olds aren’t simply skipping the wedding and choosing to move in with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Rather, they’re staying solo longer or getting involved without cohabitating.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” Arielle Kuperberg, an assistant professor of sociology at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, told TODAY.

“Young adults are taking longer and longer to achieve the things that we consider make you an adult — financial independence, leaving your parents’ house, finishing your education, having kids, getting married.”

Part of that is a direct effect of the Great Recession, which began in 2007 and left many young people unable to establish themselves in professional jobs, Kuperberg said. Many young men especially have not been able to achieve the goals that young women want in a husband, such as financial stability and a well-paying job, she added.

“I don’t think it’s because people are giving up on romance. I think it’s because they’re having a hard time finding people who are willing to partner with them for the long term or who they are willing to partner with because of these issues,” Kuperberg said.

Citing a 27-year-old man who is single and still lives with his parents, Kuperberg said he told her, "I don’t want to date because what do I have to offer anyone right now? I don’t have a job, I’m still in school. Who would want to date me?”

All these issues are making people less willing to settle down, Kuperberg said.

But gender and education do play a role in who is pairing up. The Gallup data found fewer young women than young men were single. College graduates were also less likely to be unmarried than young adults with some or no college education.

For many people, life’s big events now seem to be coming later than ever before.

“The old timeline was you married in your early 20s and had kids in your mid- to late 20s,” Kuperberg said. “Now, the timeline seems to be that people are marrying in their early 30s and having kids in their mid- to late 30s, and maybe even early 40s.”

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