We’re living in the middle of an amazing era of individualism. A few generations ago, it was considered shameful for people to have children unless they were married. But as Jason DeParle and Sabrina Tavernise reported in The Times on Saturday, these days, more than half of the births to women under 30 occur outside of marriage.
In 1957, 57 percent of those surveyed said that they believed that adults who preferred to be single were “immoral” or “neurotic.” But today, as Eric Klinenberg reminds us in his book, “Going Solo,” more than 50 percent of adults are single. Twenty-eight percent of households nationwide consist of just one person. There are more single-person households than there are married-with-children households. In cities like Denver, Washington and Atlanta, more than 40 percent of the households are one-person dwellings. In Manhattan, roughly half the households are solos.
A few generations ago, most people affiliated with one of the major parties. But now more people consider themselves independent than either Republican or Democrat. A few generations ago, many people worked for large corporations and were members of a labor union. But now lifetime employment is down and union membership has plummeted.
A few generations ago, teenagers went steady. But over the past decades, the dating relationship has been replaced by a more amorphous hook-up culture. A few generations ago, most people belonged to a major religious denomination. Today, the fastest-growing religious category is “unaffiliated.”
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