Column One:
Eye on Unmarried America

September 3,  2007  



List of 'best cities for singles' is quite misleading

By Thomas F. Coleman

Forbes Magazine just released its annual list of the "Best Cities for Singles."  The San Francisco - Oakland bay area topped the list, followed by New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, San Diego, and Seattle. 

To determine the best cities for singles, Forbes ranked 40 of the largest continental U.S. urban areas in seven categories: nightlife, culture, job growth, number of singles, cost of living alone, coolness and online dating.

To determine "coolness," editors commissioned a national survey of adults, asking them, "Among the following U.S. cities, which one do you think is the coolest?"

The magazine's Cost of Living Alone index is determined by the average cost of a city's apartment rent, a pizza, a movie ticket and a six-pack of Heineken. Additionally, they factored in entry-level salary data.

The cultural index is determined by the number of museums, professional sports teams, and live theater and concert venues per capita, as well as the university population.

Job growth rankings are determined by the projected percentage of job growth over the next five years.

Online dating rankings are determined by the number of active profiles in each city listed on the dating site Yahoo! Personals.

Nightlife is based on the number of restaurants, bars and nightclubs per capita.

The number of singles is based on the percentage of a metro's population above the age of 15 that has never been married. This item carries twice the weight of any other category.

A closer look at these categories shows that Forbes is really trying to determine which cities are the best places for never-married and unattached men and women in their twenties.  The criteria have little relevance to other large segments of the 90 million Americans who are not married.

Job growth, for example, may be important to young singles starting a career, but it would not rank high on the list of attributes important to widows or widowers.

The number of people available for online dating in a city would not seem very relevant to the ten million adults living with an unmarried partner.

Nightlife probably would rank very low as a priority to the 10 million single mothers and two million single fathers who are struggling to raise children on their own.

The cost of living alone might catch the eye of many of the 30 million single people who live solo, but would not be as relevant to the 60 million unmarried Americans who are sharing a household with a partner, roommate, or relatives.

The title of the report should also be altered to say "Best Large Cities" for singles.  There are more than 300 cities in the United States where unmarried adults head up a majority of households, many of which may have a lot to offer single people.

Despite the fact that the title of the Forbes report is misleading, the magazine's annual contest has helped to raise the public profile of single people as an important segment of American society. 

Another positive aspect of this year's report is that the editors featured a link to an important commentary just below the "Best Cities" report.  "Stop Singlism" by Leslie Talbot, contends that "discrimination against the unwed may be the last socially acceptable prejudice in America."

Talbot explains that "from the workplace to the voting booth to your own backyard, the message to singles is clear, consistent, and omnipresent: Married: good! Single: bad!"

She points out how many "family friendly" companies pressure unmarried employees to travel more frequently, work more weekends and holidays, stay later during the week and refrain from taking time off during school vacation season, regardless of rank or seniority.  

"Corporate America isn't any friendlier to singles on the consumer side of the equation, opting instead to shower their discounts on the wedded in the form of preferred insurance rates and 'family' memberships at gyms and country clubs," Talbot observes.

Don't look to the government for help, she explains, because "when it comes to singlism, the government is one of the worst offenders," citing unfairness in tax codes and the omission of "marital status" from federal anti-discrimination laws.

I'm curious.  Has Talbot been studying the website of Unmarried America or reading Column One?


To read other editions of Column One, click here.

Unmarried America 2007

Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.  Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried America. E-mail: Unmarried America is a nonprofit information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and voters.