Science Says It’s Better To Be Single

Science Says It’s Better To Be Single

The headline reads “It’s better to be single, study finds.

The study is the peer-reviewed paper “Does singlehood isolate or integrate? Examining the link between marital status and ties to kin, friends, and neighbors” by Natalia Sarkisian and Naomi Gerstel.

The recent news report summarized the paper.

It turns out, if you’re single, you probably hold stronger social bonds that help people.

Marriage can constrain people socially, and is not always the happy ending we perceive it to be — and a study, published in 2015, has supported that notion.

Sarkisian and Gerstel discovered “Being single increases the social connections of both women and men.” We might translate this as: Married couples on average stay at home with their kids more often than single people.

The big conclusion—confirmed with wee p-values!—is this: “We find that single individuals are more likely to frequently stay in touch with, provide help to, and receive help from parents, siblings, neighbors, and friends than the married.”

Uh huh. And who is taking care of the kids, the single people or the married? Does it take any time at all to raise young’uns? Of course, single people, mainly women, do raise kids but not as often as the married.

Their “finding” apparently shocked some researchers. One “Putnam (2000)…expected to find that marriage would increase interactions with friends and neighbors, was surprised to discover the reverse and wrote, ‘Married people tend to be homebodies’.”


We have to keep our eye on the clever Putnam. He (she?) theorized, “Getting a job outside the home has two opposing effects on community involvement—it increases opportunities for making new connections and getting involved, while at the same time it decreases time available for exploring those opportunities.'”

I hope you are taking notes.

We finally arrive at the what-about-the-children question with this stunner: “Children, needing time and affection, may cause parents to cut back on other relationships and activities.”


Well, fine. So what. Why bother picking on this study? It is silly and unworthy of comment. Except that this kind of thing increases scientism of the first kind, which is the false belief that nothing can be known to be true until it has been “proved” true by science.

And because, once having indulged in this error, scientists fall into the second, which is supposing their opinions on matters of morals and culture carry more weight than civilians’. Scientism of the first kind leads to scientism of the second kind, which is theorizing.

This does not imply all theories are wrong. For instance:

Universal explanations suggest that the link between marriage and community ties is invariant, as it is based in the very nature of human coupling. Such explanations would, for example, suggest that the married quite naturally become soul mates, drawn to and focused on each other in such a way that excludes personal ties to others. It would suggest the married are naturally and necessarily homebodies. In contrast, single individuals would naturally feel lonely if they stayed at home, so they get out more, perhaps trying to find a marital partner along the way.

This is hilariously tentative, as if it is possible there are as-yet-to-be-discovered-by-science occult forces barring married folks from having more connections outside the home.

The razor-sharp Putnam “noted that there can be a ‘dark side of social capital,’ including gangs and criminal networks. The reduction of relationships outside marriage may mean a withdrawal of the married, especially men, from dangerous networks.”

Sarkisian and Gerstel build on their theory: “We do not want to overstate: A growing proportion of Americans think marriage is becoming obsolete, and almost half of those not married say they have no plans to marry (Pew Research Center, 2010). Nevertheless, there remains significant ideological support for marriage.”


Aha! We’re finally near our target—the Grand Theory. Ready?

They say “the overwhelming [cultural] emphasis on the benefits of marriage and the disadvantages of singlehood, we argue, is based on an inadequate understanding and analysis of negative implications of marriage and the positive contributions of singlehood.”

This understanding “was a key part of the second-wave feminist agenda.”

There we have it: the feminist agenda. And what, pray, is that?

That we not “overlook the ways that single individuals contribute to social welfare more than the married as well as the costs that marriage imposes.”

Costs. Like reproducing?

On that subject, our authors finally pronounce that “policy makers should craft a balance of marriage-focused and marriage-neutral programs to support children.”

There is the moral equivalence between kids born in wedlock, and those born outside, as insisted upon by the second-wave feminist agenda. And the pernicious belief that “policy makers” should interfere with culture.


  1. John B()

    Brings to mind Senator William Proxmire and the Golden Fleece Award

    A constant thorn in the side of the NAS

  2. Scientism. Feminism. That these words are similar is not an accident or coincidence.

    There is no plot here! Ignore the girly-man and burly woman behind the curtain! Those are not the levers of power and influence! The church has always been converged!

  3. Yawrate

    They missed something obvious (hard to believe). When our kids came along our network of friends expanded to include neighbors that also had children. As a single person I would never have gotten to know these married couples.

    So my social connections actually increased with marriage then kids.

  4. Sheri

    Brave New World—learn to love it or do something before the Soma gets dropped in the water supply.

  5. Mike86

    Might be a strong igNoble candidate with the findings described above.

  6. Gail Finke

    This is so dumb it’s amazing anyone published it. It directly contradicts many studies about the isolation of elderly people who live alone, the few and poor social ties among single people (particularly single parents and single people who are poor), and the tendency of said single people to participate less in community activities and community government — including their tendency not to vote.

  7. Kalif


    The authors did a good job at listing the limitations of the study, but the trigger-happy commenters probably skipped that part.

    One criticism I have is the necessity to perform various imputations, when the GSS data set was big enough to start with, is questionable. If the data were scarce, that would be another story.

    Next, we don’t need to look at p values, as the odds ratios are effect sizes of their own. In my experience the problem in studies like this one is not the data but over-interpretation of the effect size (connecting conclusion to the data).

    Overall, the results are in the hypothesized direction, albeit mild in effect, but to claim the opposite is the case would be ridiculous, unless you run your own study and show the data (GSS is available for public use, I believe).


  8. Kalif; agreed, the imputation of hypothesized over-interpretations effects odds ratios in p values. Were we to run our own study the questionable data might limit ridiculous conclusions.

  9. Ye Olde Statistician


    Is the English language, too, to be victimized?

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