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Singles/Never Married Persons

Culture, Ethnicity, And The Never Married

Research is scarce that recognizes culture or ethnicity in the study of the never married. However, the existing literature suggests that the rates of nonmarriage have been increasing across different racial and ethnic groups—groups that have traditionally seen most men and women marry. The U.S. Bureau of the Census (1999) reports that the major increase in the never married population in the United States has occurred among blacks, rising from 32 percent in 1975 to 44 percent in 1999. The nonmarriage rates for other cultural groups have also been increasing. For example, although historically the marriage rates of Asian women were very high, native-born Chinese-American and Japanese-American women had, by the end of the twentieth century, lower rates of marriage than did native-born European-American women.

Susan Ferguson (2000) asked never married native- and foreign-born Chinese-American and Japanese-American women their reasons for remaining unmarried. The women in her study discussed how their feelings about their parents' traditional marriage and their role as the eldest daughter deterred them from marrying and having children. They also talked about the lack of available partners because of family pressure to marry a good Chinese-American or Japanese-American man. Pressure also existed to pursuit an advanced education. The opportunities presented to them with advanced degrees and career gave them an independence that they did not feel would be possible if married to more traditional Asian men. Ferguson (2000, p. 155) concludes that "these never married women are not only challenging the traditional marriage of their parents and the cultural expectations to marry within the Chinese-American and Japanese-American communities but also are challenging the pro-marriage norms and gender role expectations of the dominant culture."

Other research on the marital behavior of Japanese women also finds a link between greater economic independence for women and an increased likelihood of remaining single. James Raymo (1998) contends that economic independence may reduce the appeal of marriage and may be used to "buy out of marriage." He suggests that a significant increase in the number of Japanese women who remain single could have important demographic, social, and economic consequences. More research is needed to better understand the lives of never married women and men within and across different cultures, and whether social and demographic changes that are occurring in other countries will also challenge traditional cultural expectations of marriage as the normative lifestyle choice.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesSingles/Never Married Persons - Social And Historical Context Of Singlehood, Psychosocial Characteristics Of The Never Married, Culture, Ethnicity, And The Never Married