Unmarried? It’ll Cost You

A new report from the Center for American Progress gives stark details on what it means for single or unmarried women in our economy today that our classic definition of “family” hasn’t changed in decades. Although they make up just under half of U.S. women, unmarried women represent 60 percent of women without health insurance, 63 percent of unemployed women, and 75 percent of women in poverty. They are less employed, make less money, and perhaps most significantly, face additional discrimination and financial burdens because of the pervasive assumption that every family has a male “breadwinner.”

As Ms. reported this Fall,  government policies such as Social Security, designed decades ago, were crafted to support so-called “family men” who worked 40-hour weeks at the same job for their whole career. Health insurance, car insurance, retirement plans–nearly all are still defined by one’s marital status. Thus single women face higher costs for all of these things simply because they are single. This continues even though, in a radical shift from the 1960s, nearly half of American women are now unmarried.

The report finds hope, however, in several pieces of legislation currently in Congress that would address the needs of unmarried women:

  • Health Care Reform: The just-passed health-care reform bill will make health-care plans more widely available and more affordable, alleviating a serious financial burden for many unmarried women
  • Pay Equity: The Paycheck Fairness Act, passed in the House in 2009 and currently awaiting Senate approval, would help end the practice of paying women lower wages for the same work. Even better would be the passage of the Fair Pay Act, which guarantees equal pay for not just the same job, but equivalent work across occupations.
  • Childcare: The pending Starting Early, Starting Right Act would reauthorize the Childcare and Development Block Grant, providing child-care subsidies to low income women and families.
  • Affordable housing: Some of the current housing legislation before Congress would make it easier for divorced women to obtain mortgage modifications (since their mortgage when they bought the house was likely based on two incomes) and help stop predatory lenders, who disproportionately target women.

The report highlights several other pieces of legislation affecting Social Security, retirement, education, resources for single mothers and more. At nearly 60 pages, the report is long, but detailed and worth checking out. You can find it at the Center For American Progress website here [PDF].

Above: Mary Tyler Moore, whose eponymous TV character represented unmarried working women. Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/scriptingnews/ / CC BY-SA 2.0


  1. How about making the pay fairness act retroactive?

  2. As a single woman, this has always been frustrating to me! Not to mention economically speaking, but I feel that sometimes female leaders in management are given the short end of the stick, but sometimes people also have higher expectations for us to work overtime, etc because we are single and don’t have a family.

  3. I think this is really unfair for single mothers. Just because they are single, doesn't mean they need to pay more than ordinary, married mothers. They shoulder the responsibility of raising their child alone, it's a little harsh for them to shoulder more responsibilities should this be passed.

  4. Sex should not come into the equasion. We do the work required in the job for the same pay, same hours.

    I think females put more into the job because they are expected to keep up with the males. What happened to equality.

  5. Personally I prefer to hire females over males in most cases and those I do hire end up making more than the males in most cases. The reason is simple, I find that their attention to detail and dedication far exceed that of their male counterparts. As stated above, one's sex should not effect the pay they receive. If they do the job then they get the proper compensation. SImple!

  6. As an employer I always try and pay women equally if not better as they tend to work harder than most men! In this day and age, pay and benefits etc should not be calculated based on whether you are married or not!!

    • "…should not be calculated based on whether you are married or not!! "

      Richard, I definately agree with this sentiment. Things are progressing though, in my grans day a married woman was frowned upon if she worked and in my mums day you could work when you were married but should give up when children came along!! These days your marital status should count for nothing but your ability to perform your job should..

  7. Pay and benefits shouldn't be based upon your sex or martial status, but upon your experience and work performance. Nor should health and car insurance should be determine by one martial status but by your age.

  8. "unmarried women represent 60 percent of women without health insurance, 63 percent of unemployed women, and 75 percent of women in poverty"

    Anyone know the equivalent numbers for unmarried men?

    Equality for all must be the only way to move forward

  9. I was going to respond specifically to several comments above, but I’ll summarize my sentiment.

    Several men above seem to have a positive prejudice for female employees. My unpopular feeling is that anyone in a position of authority to hire in a private organization should have the freedom to have positive or negative gender opinions when hiring or promoting those in their charge.

    That same freedom, however, should not be evident in the public sector. I don’t favor sex bias, but I favor something much more delicate and easily damaged, and that’s the freedom to conduct our own business as we see fit. If I can’t get every business on earth to agree with me, should I seek tyrannical political solutions to make them comply with my ethics? How freedom loving is that approach? I prefer the gentle art of verbal persuasion which may or may not be mightier than the political sword.

    Many leaders in the women’s movement over the decades seem to forget that any bias is erroneous, even bias in favor of women. Perhaps it’s an emotional reflex to overlook prejudice when it might work in our favor. While it contradicts all the manifestos over the years, I want us – you – to have the freedom to be inconsistent.

  10. I think that people should receive remunerations for the amount of work and effort that is put in. Regardless if that person is a male, or female, married or unmarried, he or she should be getting salary and privileges based on the quality of work that is given, and not by what social status he or she has.

  11. It does seem to be backwards. If anything, an unmarried women should receive support for trying to make ends meet on her own, rather than punishment.

  12. Now, these are four more good reasons to stay single for life ;)… On a serious note, I really think people should have a fair share of everything regardless of sex and marital status.

  13. These are interesting statistics indeed. When will this equality war finally be over so that women can be treated the same way as men in the workforce. I cannot believe it's still an issue that women get paid less than men. I like to think things have progressed in the 21st century in regards to this matter.

    Hopefully these new elements that make up the legislative will get passed so married women can be cut some slack!


  14. I've read before in an article in Reader's Digest that based on surveys, Women are the strongest sex and men are the weakest….but it's not about that, I think if people can't practice equality, then just learn to categorize we have are low and high points we have to concentrate on that.

  15. I agree with "Tim" about pay and benefits that it should be from your work performance not by marital status

    Daphne Kung from max international blog

  16. The pay should correspond to the how much a person works. The relationship status and gender should not matter. It's already quite unfair for women. And how much more would it be unfair for unmarried women?

  17. These are pretty scary stats, do women have to be married to have a good life? I also believe that its unfair for unmarried mothers to have an extra burden.


  1. […] March 23, 2010 I recently started contributing to the newly launched blog over at Ms. Magazine. This is my first post, which looks at a new study out from the Center for American Progress. Bottom line: being unmarried […]

  2. […] be found below, incl… 3 Tweets Avon Walk for Breast Cancer: 3 Tweets Unmarried? It’ll Cost You : Ms Magazine Blog 3 Tweets Sleep Tight and Don’t Let the Facebook Updates Bite Ever find […]

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Women's eNews, Nisha Chittal, ShelbyKnox, Fem2pt0, Jessica Faye Carter and others. Jessica Faye Carter said: RT @nishachittal: My new @msmagazine post on the new @amprog report on economic legislation affecting unmarried women: http://bit.ly/aWFWj4 #p2 #fem2 […]

  4. […] Unmarried? It’ll Cost You- Despite the fact that just under half of women in the U.S. today are unmarried, laws and government policies still favor the male breadwinner. Unmarried women are more likely to be , living in poverty, and earn less money. […]

Speak Your Mind


Error, no Ad ID set! Check your syntax!