Opinion: Going solo! Most adults in Los Angeles are single
A recent spate of reports that single people make up 55.8% of the adult population of the Los Angeles metropolitan area may come as a shock to single adult women in L.A., who will most likely respond: “Are you kidding? Then why am I having such a hard time finding a boyfriend?” Or to borrow perpetual thirtysomething dater Charlotte York’s classic line on the TV show “Sex and the City”: “I’ve been dating since I was 15. I’m exhausted! Where is he?”
By the way, 53.6% of adults in New York City -- where that show was set -- are single.
What’s stunning is that for the first time since the government began compiling these kinds of statistics in 1976, slightly more than half the population of American adults is single (meaning divorced or never married), according to U.S. Census figures, a Bloomberg article reports.
And, yes, in the country as a whole, there are more single women than single men. (Hence the Charlotte York lament.) One report says the numbers of single women is at 18 million, compared with 14 million men.
In 1976, 37.4% of American adults were unmarried. Bloomberg cites an economist who puts the current percentage at 50.2. Another report has it at 51.2. I suspect this goes hand in hand with the rise in cat households, since there are more pet cats than pet dogs in the U.S., and, as we all know, cats are much better “latch-key” furry children, if you will, than dogs are. They are more adept at taking care of themselves and being left to their own devices than dogs are.
The nomenclature for singles is a bit problematic. As a member of this growing group, I find the word “singleton” too clinical and nerdy. “Selfie” is too cute and smarmy. Fortune magazine, writing about this phenomenon two and a half years ago, called the U.S. a “solo nation.” That has a certain romance and adventure to it. That I can live with.
That and my possessions in the space of my solo-occupied condo. And I am not alone, so to speak.
In the 2012 Fortune article by Eric Klinenberg, a professor of sociology at New York University, the perception of single adults as lonely and neurotic has evaporated. Single adults often live alone by choice, in urban areas, and enjoy themselves: “They spend more discretionary dollars than their married counterparts,” wrote Klinenberg, who is the author of “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.”
But try to find a portrait of single life in my newspaper’s photo database that isn’t bleak or tawdry. Search on “single” and “adult” and “L.A.,” and you get a photo from the last century of women with paper nametags at a singles event at a symphony concert, a photo of women in tight shirts and ripped jeans shorts dancing on a bar on a “Coyote Ugly” night -- or a photo of a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk. Great. I don’t think any of those photos capture the reality of single life in L.A. these days. So I was compelled to illustrate this post with a photo of a single friend and me at a wine tasting.
What struck me about the latest data crunching were the locations of all these enclaves of singles. I would expect Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the country, with the entertainment industry, universities, media companies and beachside communities, to beckon lots of singles. I would expect New York City to be a mecca of singles. But in terms of percentage ranking, New Orleans tops the list with 58%. Memphis comes in second with 57.7%. Los Angeles is fourth and New York is ninth.
The reporting and research website CityLab notes that singles are in the majority in 27 out of 50 states. The lowest percentage of singles in any state is 43.7% -- in Utah. The state with the largest percentage of singles is Louisiana, followed by Rhode Island.
The point is that, based on statistics, anecdotal evidence and reporting, more Americans everywhere seem to be comfortable being single and accepting that other people are.
I think that’s healthy. Many of these singles were married or will get married or cohabitate. But it’s good to be comfortable with yourself, to know yourself, before you merge into a partnership—or after you get out of one.
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