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Going Solo in the USA

Last month, the New York Times published the results of their analysis stating that 51% of U.S. women now live without a spouse. However, Sperling's BestPlaces discovered this might not be the whole story.

"The Times came to some insightful conclusions with their analysis," said Bert Sperling, lead researcher for Sperling's BestPlaces. "We made some different assumptions to more closely reflect our national lifestyle where fifteen year-old girls aren't commonly expected to get married."

The New York Times used the latest demographics from the Census Bureau, including women above age fourteen who were unmarried or separated. Indeed, according to a University of Texas survey, the average age of women at their first marriage is 26.

Sperling's firm looked at similar Census data, but restricted its analysis to single, widowed, and divorced women age 25-64. Without this cap on the age range, places with higher concentrations of elderly people would show a misleading number of single women.

Sperling's conclusion is significantly different than the New York Times. In the 379 metro areas nationwide, 34% of women 25-64 are single.

Despite all the attention to this new milestone for single women, the difference between the number of single men and women is not as great as one might think. Nationally, 32% of men are single.

Where do the lonely hearts live?

"As interesting as the nation as a whole is trending," Sperling said, "we want to see which places had the greatest percentage of single men and women."

Sperling's firm broke down the data by metro area, revealing interesting patterns on where singles live.

San Francisco seems to attract single people like a good pickup line, if there is such a thing. Compared to every other metro area in the U.S., the San Francisco region, which includes areas south like San Mateo and Redwood City, has the highest percentage of single people.

Detroit, with 43% singles, is second only to San Francisco. New York, and Boston round out the top four.

Most southern cities are not flush with single people. Those cities in southern states that have more singles are homes to colleges, where students might choose to remain after graduation, or are known for their nightlife. New Orleans, Austin, and a handful of Florida cities all have more singles than the national average.

"There has to be a lot going on for singles," said David Evans in a phone interview with BestPlaces. Evans is an online dating researcher based in Boston, a city that is 39% single. Evans said Boston has the key factors for single living. "It's a college town, it has nightlife, culture, and lots of jobs."

Whether by choice or circumstance, many are living in some of the biggest cities, surrounded by millions, and still find themselves alone.

The Top Ten "Solo Cities:"

Rank Metro % Single
1 San Francisco, CA 44.7
2 Detroit, MI 44
3 New York, NY 39.8
4 Boston, MA 39.2
5 New Orleans, LA 39.1
6 Los Angeles, CA 37.7
7 Fort Lauderdale, FL 37.2
8 Las Vegas, NV 37
9 Miami, FL 36.9
10 Albuquerque, NM 36.8

See entire list

Where are the couples?

People tend couple up more in the smaller towns, though there are big city outliers like Edison, NJ, and Nassau-Suffolk metro area in New York. Many places that view themselves as traditional boast marriage rates above the national average.

A few college cities buck the trend of having more singles. North Carolina cities, Raleigh and Charlotte--each home to a university with more than 20,000 students--are in the bottom 25% by percentage of singles.

Logan, UT, and Provo, UT, both have fewer than 20% singles, the lowest in the country. Texas cities McAllen and Laredo have similarly low numbers of single people.

Top Ten Least Single Cities

Rank Metro % Single
1 McAllen, TX 23
2 Lake County, IL 25.1
3 Nassau, NY 26.9
4 Edison, NJ 28
5 Poughkeepsie, NY 28
6 Bakersfield, CA 28.3
7 El Paso, TX 28.4
8 Allentown, PA-NJ 28.4
9 Salt Lake City, UT 28.5
10 Oxnard, CA 28.5

See entire list

 

What about that gender gap?

 

Bars and clubs that promote the ubiquitous "Ladies Night" might be surprised to find their city's gender gap favors the men. Since the U.S. has about 6% more single women than single men, many cities tip toward more women.

Evans said many dating events take care of any imbalance by "stocking the pond," applying a quota so the number of participants of each sex are equal.

Still, where there is an imbalance, the dating life is easier on one gender. Online dating companies are cluing into the gender gap. "All the sites are getting to where the ads are different in geographic areas," Evans said.

When advertising on TV, the radio, or the Internet, personals websites can alter the ads based on whether the city is likely to have a dearth of one gender. An effect of this, Evans said, is that people perceive that there are plenty of fish in the sea.

Top 10 Gender-imbalanced Cities:

Rank Metro Gender gap
1 McAllen, TX 28% more women
2 El Paso, TX 27% more women
3 Memphis, TN 17% more women
4 Bethesda, MD 17% more women
5 San Jose, CA 17% more men
6 Birmingham, AL 16% more women
7 New York, NY 16% more women
8 Baltimore, MD 16% more women
9 Little Rock, AR 16% more women
10 Columbia, SC 15% more women

See entire list

A gender gap is more common than a perfect balance. Despite that, some places manage to have remarkably similar numbers of men and women, as if someone is stocking the pond of the entire city.

Top 10 Equality Cities:

Rank Metro Gender gap
1 Warren, MI slightly more men
2 Minneapolis, MN slightly more women
3 Tacoma, WA slightly more men
4 Orlando, FL slightly more men
5 Oxnard, CA slightly more men
6 Grand Rapids, MI 1% more men
7 Los Angeles, CA 2% more women
8 Allentown, PA 2% more women
9 Fort Worth, TX 2.5% more women
10 Santa Ana, CA 2.5% more men

See entire list