Today the Census Bureau sent a bunch of statistics to the media to help reporters write attention-getting articles about National Unmarried and Single Americans Week – the third full week of September (Sept. 19-25 in 2010).
To borrow a line from our friend Tom Coleman: much of the data in this press release is based on the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of only 50,000 households conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because this sample is so small, it is subject to much greater error than the American Community Survey. Until all the data has been gathered and processed from the 2010 Census, we’ll keep using the 2006 – 2008 American Community Survey three-year estimates as our best source of information. The ACS uses a much bigger sample size, and combining three years of data makes it even bigger and more reliable.
For example, the 2008 3-year ACS estimates that less than half – 49.566% – of all households in the U.S. are occupied by married couples (with or without children or other people).
I haven’t yet found an ACS data-point for marital status of householder, though it is possible to work backwards into it. The CPS does report the marital status of householders, finding 3,348,000 married individuals who maintain households without their spouses. Some might be separated, or long-distance commuters, or married to someone who is in the military or incarcerated or just plain missing.
We think about these numbers a lot, because it means a lot to people to be “in the majority.” Somehow, there’s validation in numbers: people instinctively conflate “majority” and “average” with “normal” and “okay.” Of course, AtMP is here to say that unmarried people are perfectly normal and okay no matter how the stats tick up or down over the years. And of course, we celebrate the solidly consistent trends showing the unmarried community’s growth and diversity.