Why Being Single In America Is So Expensive

When the pursuit of happiness often conjures images of white picket fences and 2.5 children, a seismic shift is underway.

Nearly half ¹ of all US adults are single, a figure climbing for decades. But beneath this trend lies a less discussed reality: the financial strain of living solo in a society seemingly built for two.

The Single Life Is A Growing Trend with Hidden Costs

In the 1960s ², only 1 in 10 adults aged 25 or older had never been married. By 2012, this figure rose to 1 in 5, reflecting a significant shift in societal norms and personal priorities.

Today, while 53% of unmarried adults still express a desire to marry eventually, a notable 32% are uncertain, and 13% have no intention to wed. Projections suggest that by the time young adults reach their mid-40s to 50s, nearly 25% may remain unmarried.

The reasons for staying single vary, with 30% not finding the right person, 27% citing financial instability, and 22% feeling too young or not ready to settle down.

The “Singles Tax”

The term “singles tax” ³ might sound like a modern buzzword, but it’s a reality for the 117.6 million unmarried American adults. Living alone means shouldering the full burden of expenses, from rent to groceries, without the economies of scale that couples enjoy.

In states like South Carolina, a single adult’s typical expenses can exceed their coupled counterparts by at least $6,000 annually. And in high-cost urban areas like New York City, the gap widens dramatically, with singles paying nearly $20,000 more per year for the privilege of a solo living space.

The Financial Strain of Solo Living

For many singles, the cost of autonomy is not just steep—it’s escalating. The 2023 Stress in America survey ⁴ paints a picture of a nation still reeling from collective trauma, with singles bearing a significant brunt.

Key stressors include a volatile economy, personal safety concerns, and skyrocketing housing costs. Individuals aged 35 to 44 are particularly hard hit, witnessing a significant uptick in chronic health conditions and mental health diagnoses post-pandemic.

As the financial strain of living alone intensifies against a backdrop of global uncertainty, many singles are forced to reassess their lifestyles, reconsider their living arrangements, and rethink what community means in an era of unprecedented stress and change.

Institutional Bias: The Hidden Hurdles

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Image Credit: Elnur/Shutterstock.

It’s not just day-to-day expenses that singles grapple with. The financial system itself seems skewed ⁵ towards couples. From tax breaks to Social Security benefits, married individuals often find themselves on the favorable side of financial policies.

The typical tax expense for a single adult is about 40% ⁶ higher than that of a married couple, a disparity that extends into areas like homeownership and asset accumulation.

Independence & Empowerment

Despite the challenges, being single isn’t without its perks. Many relish the financial freedom and personal autonomy it offers. The ability to make decisions unilaterally, invest in personal growth, and enjoy the fruits of one’s labor without compromise is a powerful draw.

And as society evolves, so does the narrative around single life, shifting from lack to abundance and opportunity.

Strategies & Solutions for Singles Tax

For those navigating the singles tax, budgeting and community integration are key. Sharing expenses with trusted individuals can alleviate some financial pressure, whether through communal living or collective purchasing.

And as the conversation around single life grows louder, there’s hope for policy changes that might level the playing field, making the single life a viable choice and an equally supported one.


  1. bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-09-15/singles-now-make-up-more-than-half-the-u-s-adult-population-here-s-where-they-all-live
  2. opentextbooks.concordia.ca/lifespandevelopment/chapter/7-14-adult-lifestyles/
  3. cnbc.com/2023/10/28/why-its-so-expensive-to-be-single-in-the-us.html
  4. apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2023/collective-trauma-recovery
  5. investopedia.com/articles/taxes/08/itemized-deductions-overview.asp
  6. bakerinstitute.org/research/married-filing-separately-better-or-worse-it-depends
Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.