According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s fact sheet for this week, over 44% of adult US residents are unmarried, 62% of those have never been married. And the number of singles are increasing, a demographic trend that has all too often been used to call for more matrimanical or couplemanical solutions. Eric Klinenberg, in his book Going Solo takes a different approach: Because the demographic trend is a reality, rather than fighting it, he suggests that we need to build the social structures that address issues that arise because more people remain single and are thus often not supported by the current familial structures that have traditionally furnished such support.
Since I am self-employed and there is no universal health care in the U.S., I buy health insurance on the open market. This forces me to make a trade-off between lower monthly premiums and lower deductible (a trade-off increasingly everybody in the U.S. faces). Because I chose the lower premiums, I have been stuck with some unexpectedly high medical bills – just from what I’d consider normal things that happen with aging, like a crown or testing moles for cancer. Instead of forcing me to get employed or married, a society that would face the social responsibility of an increasingly single populace would offer health care without strings attached, also known as universal health coverage. Additionally, this would move us closer to a compassionate society something that comes with a lot of benefits, including to our health.
Another move toward a compassionate society that would greatly support the increasing number of singles would be a basic income guarantee. Venturing out on my own to create a right livelihood continues to be rather scary. There is no social safety net that would catch me because this society expects a spouse to be there to catch me when I fall. The demographics point to the reality, though, that many of us face: There is no such spouse. Instead, then, we could build a social safety net that would support each other creating a society that could work for all, that would allow people to pursue their dreams without having to worry about where they can sleep or how they can get food.
By accepting the current system that relies on marriage and family for our most basic support, we might be guilty of systemic evil. Maybe it is time for us to stand up to the forces that are moving us further and further away from a compassionate society and take a single action: As singles, we take our responsibility seriously to support each other by fighting for social supports that are embedded in the societal structure – such as universal health care and a basic income guarantee. Sure, this requires a radical change of the U.S. culture that is so based on individualism. And as singles, we know more than anybody else that true independence is actually interdependence. We can use this knowledge to work for a more compassionate society – and ensure that the increasing number of singles are taken care of no matter what they do for a living or how old they are even when they choose to remain single for their whole life.