Saturday, May 26, 2001
Problems of single people
should be taken seriously
The issue: Are single people treated equally
with those who are married? Their advocates
say no, and they are speaking for a growing
number of single-person households.
ADVOCATES for single people contend that unmarried Americans are discriminated against and they want it to stop. Tax, insurance and employment policies as well as societal pressures place unmarried adults at a disadvantage, they say. As with any form of inequality, this bias should be eliminated.
When representatives of the American Association for Single People, a civil rights organization, brought this issue to Congress recently, they were rebuffed; some legislative aides even snickered and rolled their eyes. It may have been that their attitudes reflected an outdated perception of single people as pitiful old maids and hapless bachelors unable to find spouses.
But the group's concerns are serious and lawmakers should not ignore them because they represent a large segment of the population -- as many as 82 million Americans.
Their status as singles, that lonely number 1, masks in many cases their true identities: unmarried couples who feel they need not legally validate their relationships, gays and lesbians, widowed people who remain unmarried for fear of losing pensions, college students, young adults just starting their careers, single parents and older divorced men and women.
Census 2000 figures show that 5.5 million couples are unmarried and that Americans living alone make up 26 percent of all households, surpassing that for married-couple households at 23.5 percent.
Unmarried couples face discrimination in rental housing and mortgage rates. Without domestic partnership laws, other benefits such as Social Security, pensions and medical insurance are denied unmarried couples.
In some workplaces, single people are forced to work more overtime than married people because "they don't have families to take care of," according to University of Southern California sociologist Judith Stacey.
There are matters more mundane but vexing just the same: discounts at hotels where larger rooms are available at a lower rate for families, but not for singles; food at cheaper prices in large quantities at supermarkets.
Married people face myriad problems that single people don't. But with the changes in the family structure and the fading social stigma of singular life, adjustments should be calculated for those who choose to live alone.
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