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Realities of more unmarried women

Armen Hareyan's picture

More than half of U.S. women are living without a husband according to a New York Times analysis of 2001 census results. The report released this week found that 51 percent of the women are living without a spouse - an increase from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000. But according to an Iowa State University sociologist who is author of a recent book on the changing American stepfamily, the rising percentage of "unmarried women" shouldn't come as a surprise, or scare women.

"More people are delaying getting married, cohabiting, and the population is aging. These are the trends that account for more unmarried women," said ISU Assistant Professor of Sociology Susan Stewart, author of the book "Brave New Stepfamilies: Diverse Paths Toward Stepfamily Living" (Sage Publications, Dec. 2006). "It (the NY Times report) does not mean that women are much less likely to ever get married. Still 90 percent of women marry at some point."

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The growing percentage of unmarried women concurs with recent trends Stewart reported in her book -- such as couples having children and living together outside of marriage, parents sharing custody of children, gay parenting, and population aging. Those more diverse arrangements have led to a growing number of stepfamily categories.

Stewart is concerned that this week's report on unmarried women is being sensationalized in some media accounts.

"Every so often, the media will grab on to these kind of 'scary statistics' to make it sound like women are having a hard time getting married because they are too busy in their careers," said Stewart. "It is more a backlash against feminism. The main thing is that our politicians and government should start speaking to the issues of this huge voting block a little better. Not all of us are so-called 'soccer moms.'"

Stewart discusses issues surrounding the modern American family in her sociology classes, including one titled "The Sociology of Intimate Relationships."