That singular sensation

That singular sensation
From left to right: Kristina Lopez and Laura D'agostino

Ms Laura D'agostino, 26, is a busy New York City professional who has no time for a relationship.

The broadcast associate with a bachelor's degree in communications works from 6pm to 4am five days a week, and commutes from New Jersey to New York City every day.

She tells The Sunday Times she is not worried about being single. "It is the norm... half my co-workers are single."

Judging from recent data, being single certainly is the norm in the United States. In fact, for the first time ever, single Americans outnumber those who are married, making up 50.2 per cent of the population aged 16 and older.

A report by economist Edward Yardeni, using data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics, says that last month, there were 248.2 million people aged 16 years or older, with 124.6 million of them single - never married, divorced, separated or widowed - and 123.6 million married.

In stark contrast, just 37.4 per cent of the adult population were single in 1976, the year the US started recording such data.

More than just a statistical quirk, the change has raised concerns about what sort of impact a society dominated by singles will have on American businesses and the economy.

Some also question if singles are more productive than their married peers and how the demographic change will eventually change business strategies and even the infrastructure of a city.

The problem, of course, is not unique to the US.

Singapore, too, has seen its proportion of singles rise gradually over the years. In 2012, it was 32.1 per cent, up from 30.4 per cent in 2002, according to Singapore's Department of Statistics.

In comparison, the proportion of married individuals dropped from 61.9 per cent in 2002 to 59.7 per cent in 2012.

In numerous reports and studies, the rise in the number of singles has generally been attributed to people waiting longer to get married and to higher education levels, especially among women, allowing them to remain single and independent if they so choose.

While some have the impression that singles might put in more hours at work and take on extra shifts during holiday weekends, sociologist Karen Guzzo from Bowling Green State University is quick to point out that this is not always the case.

"Single doesn't necessarily mean childless," says Associate Professor Guzzo.

"Many singles are actually single parents, who have less flexibility than their childless counterparts and are often also less flexible than their married-parent counterparts, who can split the child-rearing duties."

In 2011, 8 per cent of households with children under the age of 18 were headed by single fathers and about 26 per cent were headed by single mothers, according to a report by Pew Research Centre.

And to say singles work harder in the first place may not be totally accurate either.

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