Illustration courtesy of: Аngelica А.

Does Capitalism Hate Single People?

From taxes to travel and milk cartons in bulk: If you’re single, you’re being penalized for it


Singledom is appallingly expensive. Period. You pay more if you fly, sleep or eat by yourself. Not to mention if you’re carrying the full burden of a mortgage and insurance premiums, then it all adds up for us singletons. But why the penalties? Well, they are the high price one has to pay if one is not part of a couple.

Societies are purposely designed for married people. Around the world, a lot of people suffer from institutionalized singlism. The discrimination of individuals based on marital status seems to be the rule. Still today, in the western world, being married is considered a social good. But, why does capitalism and why do governments hate single people?

For example, the U.S. Federal code states that: “The President may prescribe rules which shall prohibit… discrimination because of marital status”. Yet, at the same time, there are more than 1,000 laws providing overt legal or financial incentives and benefits to married couples. Studies have shown that marital privileges marginalize around the 50 percent of Americans who choose to remain single. One reason these policies exist is to encourage people to get married. Regulations are rigged to encourage and reward a coupled lifestyle.

Studies have even found that society views unmarried people unfairly. In a paper written by Bella M. DePaulo and Wendy L. Morris and published in the Psychological Inquiry, 49% of participants described married people as “kind, caring, or giving” and only 2% of participants came up with the same characteristics for single people. Single people were however viewed as more “independent and open-minded.”

Governments are the main perpetrators, offering couples breaks on their income taxes, Social Security benefits, and IRA benefits, with private companies following the lead. Whenever you look there’s an offer for couples “only”: big supermarkets chains where bulk buying is the rule and cruises with all expenses paid designed exclusively for lovebirds. Let’s face it, capitalism puts those who are single under enormous financial pressure, I suppose with the aim that we marry and procreate, therefore spending more on having kids and housing, either way is a win-win for the system. Although at the end those who chose to be married eventually will get benefit more from their decision.

Marriage not only helps cut expenses but also raises considerably a couple’s income and overall wealth. According to Pamela Smock, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan, “The evidence shows that getting married increases wealth and income”.

Picture two singles living apart. If they marry, they drastically cut their expenses and costs. These savings are especially blatant when one partner makes less money than the other. Out of practical necessity, single people have no choice but to surrender and spend more on housing and health, not including retirement and inheritances, where our coupled-up counterparts have a series of systematic advantages.

The power of marital privilege on money is so high, that a 2013 survey of the costs of being single carried out by The Atlantic found out that, factoring in the price of healthcare, “over a lifetime, unmarried women can pay as much as a million dollars more than their married counterparts”.

Some married people justify themselves in their decision to be partnered by referring to great happiness and better social welfare, but how much truth is in this?

Over the years, we all have seen in every magazine or newspaper a piece praising the incredible benefits of marriage. Most of them suggesting that married people live healthier lives and are happier, but critics such as Dr. Bella DePaulo have pointed out that in the long term, there is little to no difference whatsoever between married and single people in terms of health, happiness, or personal responsibility.

It is imperative that we demand fair policies from our policy-makers, policies that do not take into consideration an individual’s marital status. Such policies are discriminatory and foster inequality in the long-term.

Eventually, if you’re past a certain age, people expect you to be in a relationship, get married or have children. If you do not comply with this norm, then something must be wrong with you. Staying single is presented as a horrifying lifestyle on all counts. This social stigma is made worse by the fact that staying financially safe is a constant battle for those who thrive on being by themselves.

Single people probably won’t have the need to splurge on an expensive wedding day, instead they can, from a distance, enjoy the dance, the cake, and the sight without having to commit to it. In the end, they might have to pay more for the price of solitude, but for those choosing an independent lifestyle, surely it is worth the expense, one they shouldn’t be discriminated against.