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Updated on Monday, July 26, 2021
They say two is better than one, which for some, means finding a partner might be a major life goal. But for now, being single — particularly being a single woman — is more common in the largest U.S. cities than the alternative.
According to a MagnifyMoney analysis of the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, 55.6% of Americans 20 and older across the 100 largest cities are single, meaning they aren’t married or they’re divorced, separated or widowed. Singlehood is even more common among women across the 100 largest cities (57.3%) than men (53.7%).
Some may choose to remain single while others look to partner up eventually. But, either way, MagnifyMoney content director Ismat Mangla says being single can significantly impact one’s finances.
“So many financial incentives — not to mention financial advice — in our society are geared toward married couples and families,” she says. “It can sometimes feel daunting to tackle and protect your finances as a single person.”
- Most adults in the largest 100 U.S. cities are single, but women are more likely to fly solo. Just over 55% of people 20 and older are single. That jumps to 57.3% for women and falls to 53.7% for men.
- Shares of single women outsize shares of single men in all but four of the largest cities. Greensboro, N.C., has the widest gap between the rate of single women (62.2%) and single men (52.2%). On average, there’s a 3.6 percentage point difference between the share of single women and men.
- Midwestern and Southern cities are full of singles. Of the 10 cities with the highest shares of single adults, only one falls outside the Midwest or South. Detroit has the highest share — 75.6% — of single residents 20 and older, followed by Cleveland at 72.8% and Baltimore at 71.3%.
- Citizens are more likely to be married out West. Six of the 10 cities with the smallest shares of single adults are in California and Arizona — including Fremont, Calif., with the fewest single folks (33.5%). The other four cities are in the South.
All the single ladies (outnumber the single guys)
Despite what your Instagram and Facebook feeds might seem to be telling you, the majority of adults in the 100 largest U.S. cities classify as single. Including those who aren’t married and those who are divorced, separated or widowed, 55.6% of adults 20 and older are single.
MagnifyMoney researchers also found that women across the 100 largest cities are more likely to be single than men. While single folks still are the majority among men and women, an average of 57.3% of women are single in these cities, versus 53.7% of men.
Further, men are more likely to be single in just four of the largest 100 cities. Shares of single women surpass shares of single men in every other city by an average of 3.8 percentage points. Greensboro, N.C., has the widest gap between the rate of single women and single men at 10 percentage points — 62.2% of women on their own, compared with 52.2% of men.
Are there singles in your area?
The 10 cities with the largest shares of single adults feature an average single population of 70.4%, exceeding the overall average. But while the 100 largest cities vary in region, the top 10 are mostly in the South and Midwest.
Buffalo, N.Y., stands alone as the only top 10 city outside of the South or Midwest. Southern cities take five of the top 10 slots, but Midwestern cities Detroit and Cleveland have the largest and second-largest shares of single adults.
|10 cities with the largest shares of single adults 20 and older|
|Rank||City||Single adults||Single men||Single women|
|8||New Orleans, LA||68.5%||66.2%||70.7%|
|10||St. Louis, MO||68.1%||66.7%||69.4%|
Detroit’s singles population more than doubles the percentage of single adults in Fremont, Calif., the city with the smallest share of singles at 33.5%. Adults looking to meet other singles might have slightly better luck in Gilbert, Ariz., or Plano, Texas, with 36.6% and 38.1% of adults single, respectively.
The South is well-represented in the bottom of the rankings, too, contributing four spots to the 10 cities with the smallest percentages of singles. Western cities round out the list with four California locales, plus two from Arizona.
|10 cities with the smallest shares of single adults 20 and older|
|Rank||City||Single adults||Single men||Single women|
|7||Virginia Beach, VA||45.0%||43.0%||47.0%|
|8||San Jose, CA||45.0%||44.1%||46.1%|
|9||Chula Vista, CA||45.2%||43.3%||47.0%|
Age demographics may play a factor in predicting the share of singles in a given city. Since just 25.7% of people between ages 20 and 34 throughout the U.S. are married, cities with younger populations are more likely to have higher shares of single folks.
The median age across the 100 largest cities is 35.2 — just outside this 20 to 34 range. Detroit, Cleveland and Baltimore — No. 1, 2 and 3, respectively, among single adults — come in close at 35, 35.5 and 35.9. Compare that to Fremont, Calif., at the bottom of the list, where the median age is 38.9.
Though the coronavirus pandemic might have delayed an uptick in weddings, the marriage rate pre-crisis had dropped to 6.1 per 1,000 people in 2019, down from 6.8 in 2009. Going back to 1986, the rate was 10 per 1,000. Americans are also getting married later as the median age for first-time marriages is 30.5 for men and 28.1 for women in 2020, up from 25.7 and 23.1, respectively, in 1986.
Tips for maintaining financial independence as a single person
It’s important to marry someone for emotional reasons rather than financial perks. That being said, married couples may enjoy financial advantages, such as tax or insurance benefits, that single folks might be missing out on.
But a person certainly doesn’t need to be married or partnered to build and maintain their personal wealth.
- Get and stay organized. Not worrying about someone else’s needs or priorities can be a huge advantage to budgeting as a single person. But it can also make accountability a little trickier. Mangla recommends doing an inventory of your debts, expenses and income — and tracking it regularly. Plus, making sure your savings are growing in a high-yield savings account can help consumers best prepare for emergencies.
- Don’t go it alone. Being single doesn’t mean you can’t have friends or professional help to reach your goals. Mangla highlights the need for single folks to build a little more robust emergency savings and other safety nets to protect their finances. “You might even consider finding another single ‘financial buddy’ to help you navigate things and educate yourselves,” she says. A financial advisor can be an excellent resource for single folks looking for the best ways to build wealth.
- Invest in yourself. Couples who merge their finances may have the advantages of a dual income, but there are plenty of other ways for single earners to increase money flowing in. “You are your biggest asset, so keep increasing your skills and earning power,” Mangla says. “Consider diversifying your streams of income, whether it’s through an investment property or side hustle.”
MagnifyMoney researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2019 five-year estimates) to estimate the percentage of residents in the 100 largest U.S. cities who are single. Researchers ranked the 100 cities by the percentage of single residents.
For the study, “single” includes those who aren’t married, as well as those who are divorced, separated or widowed.