Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Single Wave

Today's demographic fact:
In 2007, the United States passed a significant demographic milestone, when the census reported that the majority of American households were headed by unmarried people. It was the crest of a wave that had been building for some time. Since 1960, the percentage of the population that is over age 15 and unmarried increased from 32 percent to 45 percent. If this trend continues, singles (including unmarried people who are cohabiting) will make up the majority of Americans in less than 15 years. 
In this season, of course, this fact has to be accompanied by political speculation:
This election year, unmarried voting-eligible women are estimated to number 55 million, more than 25 percent of the voting-eligible population. It’s that word — “eligible” — that Democrats are focused on. Although polls show that married women favor Romney over Obama, unmarried women are the most reliably Democratic voting group outside African Americans. They constituted a whopping 71-to-29 percent majority for Obama in 2008, earning them a place in what Democrats call their “rising American electorate” — the people of color, the young and the unmarried women who helped deliver the presidency for Obama in 2008, and who Democrats desperately want back in 2012. 
So Democrats need to get all their unreliable voters to the polls, and Republicans are equally set on keeping them away by a combination of restrictive voting rules and enthusiasm-destroying negative ads. Meanwhile, the changes that matter most keep moving on, regardless of who holds the White House or the Congress. Married couples with young children, the group that defined the 50s, are shrinking to a smaller and smaller minority, as single adults and the elderly make up more and more of the population.

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