Valentine’s Day is about as personally relevant to me as is Passover or Guy Fawkes Day, and since I’m likely to move to a distant, undetermined location in the next month or two, dating is a very low priority for me. However, that will not stop this blog from making gratuitous holiday tie-in posts. Today we have (via Fark) a Pew Research finding that most American singles aren’t looking for a partner. Specifically:
Among all singles, just 16% say they are currently looking for a romantic partner. That amounts to 7% of the adult population. Some 55% of singles report no active interest in seeking a romantic partner. This is especially true for women, for those who have been widowed or divorced, and for older singles. Yet even among the youngest adults, the zest for romance is somewhat muted: 38% of singles ages 18-29 say they are not currently looking for a romantic partner, compared to 22% in that age cohort who are looking for partners. The rest say they are in committed relationships.
Here’s my Tyler Cowen-esque ordered list of possible explanations:
- Simple preference. Some people decide that, despite the dominant cultural paradigm, this kind of relationship just isn’t something they want.
- Dating sucks. The process of finding a partner is so unpleasant that some people give up, or wait for a more favorable environment.
- Small dating pool. This is the one the Pew survey actually investigates at some level, asking the people who are looking if there are good prospects in the community. Outside of urban areas they are not very optimistic about this.
- Practical issues. Some people have very full schedules and don’t have the time or the resources for dating. A variety of other personal circumstances don’t allow for entering a relationship (or make it quite difficult). Alternatively, they just prioritize other interests.
- Signaling. Actively looking for a partner is often interpreted as a sign of desperation, and can be counterproductive, so people say they aren’t to project more self-assurance. Maybe this effect extends to survey responses.
- Dating works. People looking for partners tend to find them sooner or later, removing them from the category of interest. The more efficient this process is, the more selection bias you get in this kind of survey: people for whom being in a relationship is important are underrepresented in the singles group, because they don’t stay in this category for long periods of time.
I think 6 is the largest effect, followed by 3 and 4. When I’m personally in the not-looking group it’s usually for a combination of 1 and 2, although currently it’s 4 (the impending relocation).