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51% of Women Are Single

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    51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse By SAM ROBERTS January 16, 2007
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2007
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      51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse
      January 16, 2007

      For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women
      are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York
      Times analysis of census results. In 2005, 51 percent of women said
      they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49
      percent in 2000.

      Coupled with the fact that in 2005 married couples became a minority
      of all American households for the first time, the trend could
      ultimately shape social and workplace policies, including the ways
      government and employers distribute benefits.

      Several factors are driving the statistical shift. At one end of the
      age spectrum, women are marrying later or living with unmarried
      partners more often and for longer periods. At the other end, women
      are living longer as widows and, after a divorce, are more likely than
      men to delay remarriage, sometimes delighting in their newfound freedom.

      In addition, marriage rates among black women remain low. Only about
      30 percent of black women are living with a spouse, according to the
      Census Bureau, compared with about 49 percent of Hispanic women, 55
      percent of non-Hispanic white women and more than 60 percent of Asian
      women. In a relatively small number of cases, the living arrangement
      is temporary, because the husbands are working out of town, are in the
      military or are institutionalized. But while most women eventually
      marry, the larger trend is unmistakable.

      "This is yet another of the inexorable signs that there is no going
      back to a world where we can assume that marriage is the main
      institution that organizes people's lives," said Prof. Stephanie
      Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary
      Families, a nonprofit research group. "Most of these women will marry,
      or have married. But on average, Americans now spend half their adult
      lives outside marriage."

      Professor Coontz said this was probably unprecedented with the
      possible exception of major wartime mobilizations and when black
      couples were separated during slavery. William H. Frey, a demographer
      with the Brookings Institution, a research group in Washington,
      described the shift as "a clear tipping point, reflecting the
      culmination of post-1960 trends associated with greater independence
      and more flexible lifestyles for women."

      "For better or worse, women are less dependent on men or the
      institution of marriage," Dr. Frey said. "Younger women understand
      this better, and are preparing to live longer parts of their lives
      alone or with non married partners. For many older boomer and senior
      women, the institution of marriage did not hold the promise they might
      have hoped for, growing up in an `Ozzie and Harriet' era."

      Emily Zuzik, a 32-year-old musician and model who lives in the East
      Village of Manhattan, said she was not surprised by the trend. "A lot
      of my friends are divorced or single or living alone," Ms. Zuzik said.
      "I know a lot of people in their 30s who have roommates." Ms. Zuzik
      has lived with a boyfriend twice, once in California where the couple
      registered as domestic partners to qualify for his health insurance
      plan. "I don't plan to live with anyone else again until I am
      married," she said, "and I may opt to keep a place of my own even then."

      Linda Barth, a 56-year-old magazine editor in Houston who has never
      married, said, "I used to divide my women friends into single friends
      and married friends. Now that doesn't seem to be an issue."

      Sheila Jamison, who also lives in the East Village and works for a
      media company, is 45 and single. She says her family believes she
      would have had a better chance of finding a husband had she attended a
      historically black college instead of Duke. "Considering all the
      weddings I attended in the '80s that have ended so very, very badly, I
      consider myself straight up lucky," Ms. Jamison said. "I have not
      sworn off marriage, but if I do wed, it will be to have a companion
      with whom I can travel and play parlor games in my old age."

      Carol Crenshaw, 57, of Roswell, Ga., was divorced in 2005 after 33
      years and says she is in no hurry to marry again. "I'm in a place in
      my life where I'm comfortable," said Ms. Crenshaw, who has two grown
      sons. "I can do what I want, when I want, with whom I want. I was a
      wife and a mother. I don't feel like I need to do that again."

      Similarly, Shelley Fidler, 59, a public policy adviser at a law firm,
      has sworn off marriage. She moved from rural Virginia to the vibrant
      Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C., when her 30-year
      marriage ended. "The benefits were completely unforeseen for me," Ms.
      Fidler said, "the free time, the amount of time I get to spend with
      friends, the time I have alone, which I value tremendously, the
      flexibility in terms of work, travel and cultural events."

      Among the more than 117 million women over the age of 15, according to
      the marital status category in the Census Bureau's latest American
      Community Survey, 63 million are married. Of those, 3.1 million are
      legally separated and 2.4 million said their husbands were not living
      at home for one reason or another. That brings the number of American
      women actually living with a spouse to 57.5 million, compared with the
      59.9 million who are single or whose husbands were not living at home
      when the survey was taken in 2005.

      Some of those situations, which the census identifies as "spouse
      absent" and "other," are temporary, and, of course, even some people
      who describe themselves as separated eventually reunite with their
      spouses. Over all, a larger share of men are married and living with
      their spouse — about 53 percent compared with 49 percent among women.

      "Since women continue to outlive men, they have reached the nonmarital
      tipping point — more nonmarried than married," Dr. Frey said. "This
      suggests that most girls growing up today can look forward to spending
      more of their lives outside of a traditional marriage."

      Pamela J. Smock, a researcher at the University of Michigan Population
      Studies Center, agreed, saying that "changing patterns of courtship,
      marriage, and that we are living longer lives all play a role." "Men
      also remarry more quickly than women after a divorce," Ms. Smock
      added, "and both are increasingly likely to cohabit rather than
      remarry after a divorce."

      The proportion of married people, especially among younger age groups,
      has been declining for decades. Between 1950 and 2000, the share of
      women 15-to-24 who were married plummeted to 16 percent, from 42
      percent. Among 25-to-34-year-olds, the proportion dropped to 58
      percent, from 82 percent.

      "Although we can help people `do' marriage better, it is simply
      delusional to construct social policy or make personal life decisions
      on the basis that you can count on people spending most of their adult
      lives in marriage," said Professor Coontz, the author of "Marriage, a
      History: How Love Conquered Marriage."

      Besse Gardner, 24, said she and her boyfriend met as college freshmen
      and started living together last April "for all the wrong reasons" —
      they found a great apartment on the beach in Los Angeles. "We do not
      see living together as an end or even for the rest of our lives — it's
      just fun right now," Ms. Gardner said. "My roommate is someone I'd be
      thrilled to marry one day, but it just doesn't make sense right now."

      Ms. Crenshaw said that some of the women in her support group for
      divorced women were miserable, but that she was surprised how happy
      she was to be single again. "That's not how I grew up," she said.
      "That's not how society thinks. It's a marriage culture."

      Elissa B. Terris, 59, of Marietta, Ga., divorced in 2005 after being
      married for 34 years and raising a daughter, who is now an adult. "A
      gentleman asked me to marry him and I said no," she recalled. "I told
      him, `I'm just beginning to fly again, I'm just beginning to be me.
      Don't take that away.' "Marriage kind of aged me because there weren't
      options," Ms. Terris said.

      "There was only one way to go. Now I have choices. One night I slept
      on the other side of the bed, and I thought, I like this side." She
      said she was returning to college to get a master's degree (her former
      husband "didn't want me to do that because I was more educated than he
      was"), had taken photography classes and was auditioning for a play.
      "Once you go through something you think will kill you and it
      doesn't," she said, "every day is like a present."

      Ariel Sabar, Brenda Goodman and Maureen Balleza contributed reporting.



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