“All the single ladies, now put your hands up” and get your votes in! Recently, New York magazine displayed this cover to honor this year’s most powerful voter – “The Single American Woman.”
Her lifestyle is driving political change everywhere from equal pay to more affordable healthcare and lower college costs. According to the article, “For the first time in American history, single women (which includes those who were never married, widowed, divorced, or separated) outnumbered married women.” To put this change in perspective, in 1960 nearly 60 percent of Americans ages 18–29 were wed and today that number is about 20 percent.
These figures are astonishing for many reasons (aside making some of our founding unmarried mothers like Susan B. Anthony and others proud). The first is that women are no longer economically or socially dependent on a husband, nor are they defined by marriage. It should go without saying but, single women “are whole people able to live full professional, economic, social, sexual, and parental lives on their own” even if they don’t happen to meet someone whom they want legally bind themselves to, says author Rebecca Traister.
Secondly, single women are now regarded as a powerful voting demographic. The opinions of single women could potentially swing the election and subsequently the fate of our nation. According to New York magazine, in 2012 “unmarried women drove turnout in practically every demographic, making up almost 40 percent of the African-American population, close to 30 percent of the Latino population, and about a third of all young voters.”
The question of how martial status will affect voting has never been so important in an election. As the article points out, crucial Supreme Court decisions hang in the balance particularly around “women’s ability to control their reproduction… benefit from programs like affirmative action… the rights of poor women and women of color to vote easily.”
Recently in New Hampshire, we saw young single women side with Bernie Sanders. Sanders beat Clinton by 26 points with single women. Traister notes that “much of it may have to do with the fact that single women — living their lives outside of the institution around which tax, housing, and social policies were designed — have a set of needs that has yet to be met by government.”