Single in America: Findings Bust Gender Stereotypes, Reveal Changing Courtship and Sexual Behaviors and Attitudes

The largest and most comprehensive nationally-representative study of single men and women ever done dispels long-held beliefs about singles in America.  Although there are 105 million singles in the United States[1], representing one-third of the US population, these women and men have gone largely unstudied–even as their attitudes and behaviors are shaping America’s cultural norms and challenging traditional foundations.  Based on this groundbreaking study, a new picture of single Americans emerges that is radically different than it was 50 years ago when the median age of first marriage for women was 20 and only 10% of women ages 25-29 were not married.[2] The single today is defying gender and age stereotypes, adopting new dating habits, and changing the very definition of relationships.

The study of singles in America was funded by and conducted by MarketTools in association with biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, social historian Stephanie Coontz, evolutionary biologist Justin Garcia and the Institute for Evolutionary Studies at Binghamton University (EvoS).  The study, based on the attitudes and behaviors of a representative sample of 5,200 US single people ages 21 to 65+, is the most comprehensive survey of American singles ever undertaken.  Results are available at

“I’m amazed this study hasn’t been done before but in my literature search I’ve found nothing as comprehensive,” says Dr. Helen Fisher. “Moreover, I am fascinated to learn that men are just as eager to marry and have children, and more eager to compromise in a relationship.  In fact, today’s singles are returning to dating patterns that are highly compatible with our ancient human brain…With a few remarkable exceptions:  men are now expressing some traditionally female attitudes while women are adopting some of those long attributed to men!  This survey busts some entrenched myths about women, men, sex and love.”

“As the leader in the online dating space, we believe that studying singles across age, gender, ethnicity and sexual preference will not only help us to better understand the population that we serve, but will evolve America’s understanding of singles, shape public discourse, influence policy and spawn further academic study,” said Mandy Ginsberg, GM and EVP of

The New Monogamy: Singles are not desperate to marry and have children.  72% of singles would live with someone in the future without marrying.  In the 21-34 age group, 62% of single women and men want to marry, 9% do not and 29% aren’t certain about marriage.  For singles ages 35-44, those numbers drop further.  In that category, 40% of singles 35-44 want to wed, 19% do not and 42% aren’t certain.

Men are quicker to fall in love, more likely to want children: 54% of men say they have experienced love at first sight, versus 44% of women.  Among singles without children under 18, more men (24%) than women (15%) say they want children.

Women want more independence in their relationships than men do: Across every age group, women want more personal space in a committed relationship, as well as more nights out with their (girl) friends; they are also more likely to want their own bank account and to take vacations on their own.

Women’s attitudes and behaviors differ: Both single women and men have adopted more progressive attitudes toward gender roles.  49% of women disagree that women should be the primary caregiver (versus 38% of men).  87% of women say they would pick up the check on a date under some circumstances and 85% of women believe that it’s possible to have a successful career and relationship at the same time.  However, women’s behavior does not always reflect their evolving beliefs.  In the past year, 89% of women have not asked someone out on a date and 48% of women typically wait for the other person to reach out after the first date.  With a new partner, women still prefer their partners to initiate sex.

Prejudice waning; singles more open-minded when dating: Only 20% of men and 29% of women regard it as a must have or very important to find someone from their own ethnic background, while only 17% of men and 28% of women must have or say it is very important to find someone of the same religion.

Singles remain romantic: 41% believe in love at first sight and 76% believe they can stay married forever, if they marry. 29% of singles report having remained intensely in love with their last partner for 2-5 years; 8% remained intensely in love 6-10 years and 18% said the feeling of intense romantic love lasted more than 10 years.

Old and grumpy?  Think again: Older singles (ages 65 and over) report the greatest level of happiness over the past 12 months, followed by 21-24 year olds.  Seniors also report being less stressed by being single.  Contrary to popular belief, sex is important to older singles.  In fact, older men and women are less likely than other age groups to compromise on either love or sexual attractiveness in order to have a committed relationship.

Hook-ups and one night stands can turn into partnerships: 36% of singles are open to a casual hook-up in the near future and 54% of singles have had a one-night stand.  Most interesting, 35% have had a one-night stand that turned into a long term partnership.

Additional key findings include:

  • Office romances are few, short and not usually destructive. In the past 5 years, only 12% of singles dated someone in their office. Most workplace romances lasted less than 3 months and only 6% of women dated their boss.  After breaking up, 56% reported this romance did not affect their professional relationship.  36% of singles would consider dating someone in the workplace.
  • Second looks can pay off. 35% of men and women had fallen in love with someone they were not initially attracted to.  71% became smitten after having great conversations or finding shared interests or both.
  • Fidelity is a must.  69% of singles regard fidelity as a must have; in the case of 46% of the singles, either one or both partners have been unfaithful and 78% of these broke up after the discovery.  70% believe that divorce is acceptable after one or both partners cheat.

About pioneered online dating when it launched on the Web in 1995 and continues to lead this exciting and evolving category after more than a decade. Throughout its 15-year history, has helped millions of singles meet and fall in love. provides a rich tapestry of ethnicities, interests, goals, ambitions, quirks, looks and personalities from which to choose. operates some of the leading subscription-based online dating sites in 25 countries, in 8 languages and spanning five continents, as well as oversees its ongoing investment in Meetic. also powers online dating on MSN across Asia, Australia, the United States and Latin America. is an operating business of IAC.

For more information on our “Single in America” study:

For more information:

Amy Canaday



Debra Duffy


[1] US 2010 Census data

[2] Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage.  (Penguin Books, 2005)

One Comment

  1. Posted March 30, 2011 at 6:08 am | Permalink | Reply

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