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We ain’t who we were

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Men. Hang in there! Especially you unmarried ones. The numbers are shifting in your favor. Just wait for it.

There are currently 103 million folks over the age of 18 in this country who aren’t married. That’s 44.1% of all of us.

But, here’s the good news, guys. Of the 103 million singles, 53.6% are women – 46.4% men. Works out to 100 unmarried women for every 87 men. And the gap is widening. Sociologists have several theories. More women pursuing professional careers – many deciding against being mothers – some in same sex relationships which were not so numerous in the 2010 census – some not wanting to be married – some in long-term relationships while remaining single – more women living longer than men.

In fact, we’re told about 56 million households are maintained by unmarried men and women. That’s some 46% of all households.

There are about 17 million Americans over the age of 65 who aren’t married – some 16% of all single folks. A lot more women than men there.

Also, this statistic. In a population of just over 300 million, about 33 million people live alone. And that figure has increased about 10% in the last 40 years.

So, here’s what we have. More people keeping their single status. More keeping it longer – more keeping it permanently. More people creating households of families without being married. More people living longer and not marrying or remarrying. Legal recognition of same sex relationships in more states – married or not. Number of children per household going down. Just some of the social shifts taking place.

Which prompts this question. Is there now – or will there be – a political effect because of all this? Hard to tell. But those who call themselves political “professionals” should keep these stats handy. Because, just as we’re changing racially as a nation, there are many sociological patterns shifting under our feet. These are just a few. Demographers are finding people are living longer. They’re better educated. They’re forming different types of family units. There are more interracial and same sex marriages. All these factors – and a few dozen more – are just as important as that change of racial balance.

Now, add one more ingredient. An angry – very angry – voting population made up of these ever-changing groups. In the 2012 elections, many pollsters, many politicians and too many media sources badly missed determining – in advance – the mood of people at the ballot box. Too much statistical research was done to support a political point of view rather than pure analytics. A lot of politicians and their supporters accepted only their own sampling, weighted – in many cases – to confirm what they wanted to hear. In the end, their circuitous, closed process let them down – hard.

There were many elections over many years that simply built upon the rather static sociological patterns existing in the nation after World War II – patterns we now know no longer exist. In just the last dozen years, so much has changed in how we live, what we think and what we’ll accept as a society.

The 2014 elections are going to be very, very important for many reasons. Not just for the outcomes. But also for what the postmortems tell us about who we are now, how we live now and what we think as a nation. Now. Today. Researchers are already poised at computers – ready to sift through the mountains of information yet to be collected.

It could be – from a “getting-to-know-you” point of view – the 2014 elections may be the most important off-year balloting in our lifetimes.

You shouldn’t miss it.

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