Single households out number families

I was listening to the radio this morning and they were talking about a new survey that showed that for the first time single households out number families. I couldn’t find the survey online and it was unclear from the radio discussion what cohabitating couples counted as, but divorced, single parent and widowed people all fell under the single category, which is a little unfair to each of those groups as they are vastly different, especially the widows.

In any case, inevitably during the discussion a lady (from Davis, surprise, surprise, Berkeley’s mini-me) called in and asked why this is a bad thing.

For me, that pretty much sums up why it is a bad thing, because most people don’t see anything wrong with it. I mean, do I even need to justify my position? It feels like a waste of blog space to defend the need for families. It should be self evident. It’s about a ridiculous as needing to explain why a down trend in the amount of food being produced by farmers and ranchers is a bad thing.

But, just so it is on record:

The current reproduction rate in Europe is about 1.5. The current reproduction rate in the US of native born citizens is right around 2.0 and falling fast. We need a number around 2.2 for a stable population size. A shrinking population has TONS of problems including the overwhelming burden on younger people to support the elderly and a VERY unstable economy (lacking consumers).

There, and I didn’t even need to get into the social/religious values of the family to defend this one. As I said, it is pretty obvious. Just like we need food to survive (which is the answer to the why farmers are important question above for any EXTREMELY challenged readers), we need to reproduce to survive as a society. Any other questions?

9 Responses to “Single households out number families”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Ken, while I completely see your point about the need for reproduction as well as the importance of families, I can’t help but defend the single population. Establishing a family may be the right choice for some people, but it certainly isn’t for everyone. Remaining as ‘one’ in a world that sees the natural order of things occurring in pairs results in the single person experiencing a distinct stigma and marginalization from mainstream society. Western culture expects that most people will marry and socializes for the expected marital role. Singlehood is seldom, if ever, the role that is socialized for. Oftentimes, single people are prey to a culture that seeks to figure out what is wrong with them and fix it by putting them in a relationship- the only way, they believe, that one can truly be happy. Singleness is often seen as a temporary period before or between marriages, which can be viewed as the epitome of the dominance of pairs and seen as more valuable or ‘better than’ being single.
    I believe that remaining single should just as valid of a life choice as starting a family and therefore should be regarded as such, rather than the “bad thing” that you suggest.

  2. Ken's Brother Says:

    Go my Sarah. I eagerly anticipate Ken’s response to this.

  3. Ken Crawford Says:

    Man, there are so many different ways to address this, that I don’t even know where to start… how about a list followed by explanations?:

    1. There is a significant difference between the statistics changing being a bad thing and an individual’s choice being a bad thing.
    2. Speaking as a Catholic, I’d hardly call the celebate life, particularly one of service, as marginalized, stigmatized or in any other way bad.
    3. Again speaking as a Catholic, we are all called to a life of service. Raising a family is a life of service. If one does not otherwise find a way to live a life of service it is very appropriate that they feel a pang of guilt (stigmatized, marginalized, etc.).
    4. That said, I doubt the reason for this increase is from an increased desire to stay single.
    5. The “natural order of things occuring in pairs” is not a societal invention but part of the true natural law.
    6. If we’re not going to encourage reproduction, how are going to solve this problem that you see my point about?

    Now, onto the detailed analysis:

    #1 speaks to a mistake that we make as a society all the time. There are lots of things that as an individual case are good, but as a growing societal trend are bad. As an example, we need a distribution of professions. If everyone decided to be artists, we’d have a real problem on our hands. We need farmers, ranchers, material harvesters, carpenters, assembly workers, priests, engineers, leaders (both civil and corporate), thinkers, entertainers, and a host of other professions. However if we only had one profession that anyone would be willing to do (say being a priest), we’d be without some critical need. So I reject the idea that by being worried about the statistical trend, I’m stomping on any person’s individual choice. I’m concerned about the number of people who are “choosing” (see point #4) it, not that there are individual people who are choosing it.

    Along those lines, in reference to #2, I have great respect for those who choose the celebate life. It is a very Holy thing to do. It’s pretty hard to give Mother Teresa, when she was on this earth, a guilt trip for the way she led her life. As such, I have no criticisms for someone who chooses to remain single, as long as they choose to live their life in a noble fashion.

    However, bringing me to point #3, there is a great problem in our society with people never growing up and never taking any responsibility or making any efforts to serve others. Raising a family is a difficult task, one that requires giving of oneself without asking for anything in return. This is what God intended. He wants us to be in lives of selfless giving. That is why the celebate life exists, to give a path for those who are not called to marriage to still have an easy path to living a life of service. Sadly, I think both the increased number of single people and the high divorce rate are results of a mindset of selfishness.

    Those who are too self centered to be able to find someone or keep someone as a partner are truly pathetic individuals. Please note, I am NOT saying that those who can not find a partner are self centered. What I am saying is that those who can not find or keep a partner BECAUSE they are self centered are pathetic. That said, I think a great percentage of people who can not find a partner can’t do so because of this self-centeredness or because they are surrounded by people who have this problem.

    This is at the root of why those who lead family-less lives but in all other ways live the secular life often feel as thought they are looked down on by society. Except for rare cases, they aren’t giving of themselves in any particular fashion. While the rest of the population is raising a family, these people are just living a selfish life. What’s to admire in that? Nothing. That’s why they feel marginalized.

    But there is good news here, getting to point into #4. Most people do not want to live selfish lives. As much as I’m willing to discuss those who choose to be single, I think that it is disengenious to suggest that the reason we’ve had an increase in the number of single households is because of that choice. The reality is the desire to find someone is just as strong if not stronger than it has ever been. One need only look at the proliferation of dating services, online, in person and otherwise, that are so popular these days to know that this trend can not be contributed to more people choosing to be single. Sadly, as much as they want to, many of these people will never be able to find a partner for life because they are too self-centered to give of themselves to the degree that is necessary to be married.

    So what causes this dicotomy? Why is it that we have self-centered people who want to not be self-centered and give their life in serive to their family? The reason lies in point #5. Natural law, that instinct that is built into the core of our very soul, calls us to this life of service. While the influence of society is indeed massive, there are some inate desires that exist despite what roles we are “socialized for”. For some it calls them to a life of celebate service. For most this inate desire calls them to that life of service in marriage by raising a family.

    So, coming full circle, we have people are married and raise a family, people who are and should be single and people, of whom most of which are called to the married life, who are unable live up to their calling frequently because of their selfishness. Reaching point #6, what should we do? Should we just afirm those who who are not living up to their calling? No, we need to encourage them to understand what their calling is and get over themselves. For some, we need to encourage them to do something meaningful and give their lives as celebate person. But for most people this will mean encouraging them to grow up, stop being so selfish and raise a family. If we do this as a society, as most problems do when we follow God’s instruction, the population problem will solve itself.

  4. Sarah Says:

    My my my, it seems that all the Crawford men are quite verbose. I do look forward to meeting you Ken, as I am beginning to understand all the interesting stories I have heard about you. I appreciate your detailed analysis and I must say that are several things that I think you are pretty on point about. Perhaps I will take a lead from your numbered list, seeing as how I enjoy things in an ordered form:

    1. I do see the difference and appreciate your clarification. I completely agree with point #1.

    2. Also a great point and I enjoy the Mother Theresa example.

    3. While I somewhat agree that we are called to a life of service, I don’t necessarily think that it must be religious in nature. There are several occupations (doctors, lawyers, social workers, therapists, child care professionals, police officers, teachers, etc.) that do much to enrich the lives of others. Having grown-up Catholic, I was always taught that a noble life was one that exemplified what Jesus taught us in the Gospels (think the Spiritual and Corporal Acts of Mercy) and therefore I can see those principles extended into various professions.

    Additionally, to say that the increase in the number of single people is the result “of a mindset of selfishness” may be a bit of a leap. There are LOTS of reasons why an individual may be single (please note that I am not saying selfishness is not one of those reasons, only that I don’t see it as the PRIMARY reason), such as:
    – they haven’t found the right person yet
    – they are unclear about they really want to do with their lives (their ‘calling’, as you would say)
    – they are devoted to something else (health problems, family issues, etc.)
    – coming from a female point-of-view (and I’m sure many men feel the same way), nice guys who want to make a commitment are few and far between (read: EXTREMELY hard to come by)

    4. While I do see where you are coming from, namely that people WANT to get married (hence the popularity of matchmaking and online dating), I do think the choice to remain single is becoming a more popular one. I will not try to convince you of this, as it is only my opinion, and so we will have to remain divided on this particular point.

    5. This seems the ‘Noah’s arc’ of arguments. While I think we have an innate desire for companionship and love, we are socialized for marriage. I think it is possible to live a fulfilling and celibate ‘life of service’, but such people will undoubtedly be subject to the stigma that surrounds all single people of a certain age, namely, ‘Why aren’t you married yet? What’s wrong with you?”, implying that you can’t be a fully-integrated individual without a partner.

    6. Let me just say that I think being a parent is one of the noblest things a person can do with their lives. However, are you saying that single parent families are ‘less than’ their married counterparts? The quality of a family needs to be assessed much further than the number of parents in the household. Suppose a single woman decided she does not to be married, but wants to be a mother and adopts children. Who is to say that her family is ‘less than’ a family with two parents? I have trouble “encouraging [someone] to grow up, stop being so selfish and raise a family” if it is not, in their heart, something they really want to do.

    Now, I’m all for following God’s instruction, but if I were you, I wouldn’t worry about the whole ‘population problem’ just yet. I sincerely doubt that procreation will cease if there are more single households.

  5. Ken Crawford Says:

    Well, no one has ever accused a Crawford of being quiet once they got to know them…

    I want to keep this response short (or at least shorter) so I’ll start by saying that I think we’re mostly on common ground except for one point: the desire of people to be single.

    We both agree that a single life can be noble. I was not saying that it need be ordained to be noble, even though I gave it as an example (however I do think there are many people who are denying a calling to the consecrated religious life). A single parent can be just as noble as a married one (their reason for being single being the potential caveat). So can the life of a doctor, teacher or many other professions (so long as it is truly service and not “just a job”). So we agree in all these regards.

    What we don’t agree on is the choice to be single. From my perspective, someone who wants to get married but never does, even if at some point they choose to stop looking, did not choose to be single. That person at their core wants to get married. To deny that is to deny their longings.

    And it is selfishness or being surrounded by selfishness that has most of these people unmarried. Arranged marriages can work and can be very happy. Just as Brian and I had no choice to pick our brother and love each other (despite all the odds against it), those who have no choice in who they marry can truly love one another. We put WAY too much emphasis on compatibility in our society and use it as an excuse. What is really needed is a common sense of the purpose of a marriage (a big reason why similar religious feelings are important to a successful marriage) and a sense of service to their spouse/family. Almost everything else falls in the area of noise. The “I haven’t found the right person yet” or “All are horrific” are examples of selfishness or a person being surrounded by selfishness.

    And don’t disgard the caveat I keep making about being surrounded by selfishness. I think we’ve reached a critical mass of selfishness in our society that it has become difficult for good people to find other good people. However, that doesn’t change the fact that selfishness is to blame for those good people being single. It is because these people are lost in a sea of selfishness that they can’t find a good person to marry.

    Yet at their core, these people, both selfish and unselfish, want marriage (the statistics back me up on this) and, getting to the final aspect of our areas of disagreement, it is God who puts that desire there. By saying that we have an “innate desire for companionship and love” but also saying that “we are socialized for marriage” you are denying the sacramental nature of marriage, something the Catholic Church would not take kindly too. God gave us the inate desire for companionship and love SO that we would enter into the union of marriage. It is a union that He instituted and spoke to how important and sacred it is. Be careful what you disassociate…

    Finally, go talk to young people in Europe’s poorer western countries and ask them if the elderly care taxation they have to pay is bearable. While it may not be a problem just yet in America, the lack of replacing themselves in Europe is creating great strain TODAY in Europe. It’s not that procreation will cease, it is that it will fall to a level below replacement which is a HUGE societal strain on the young wage earners.

    And yes, I look forward to meeting you as well (maybe after the Bears game on 9/3?). Anyone who puts up with Brian for long periods of time is someone worth meeting. I am curious, however, what interesting stories about me are starting to make sense after this blog exchange…

  6. Ken's Brother Says:

    Gee Ken, I guess you only really support arranged marriages because that’ll mean you can get a couple of goats for marrying me off to some 60 year old cat lady eh?

  7. Ken Crawford Says:

    You can always count on Brian to bring so levity to any discussion.

    Plus I think it would be Dad who would get the goats. And it would be a lot more than 2 for some 60 year old cat lady.

  8. Ken's Brother Says:

    levity? way to use a $10 word Ken, not to mention using it in bad grammatical fashion too :-P

  9. Ken Crawford Says:

    It’s only in bad gramatical fashion because I left the me off of some before levity…