Single in America? That'll Cost You

The calculations are scary.What price singledom? Try a million dollars.

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Yep. Beyond the indignities of bridesmaid dresses and hastily hatched setups by well-meaning married friends, it seems that being single has become a luxury. That's according to an analysis of U.S. Federal Tax Code published in the Atlantic on Monday, which finds singles are at a disadvantage, financially, over a lifetime.

"More than 1,000 laws provide overt legal or financial benefits to married couples," write story authors Lisa Arnold and Christina Campbell, whose blog Onely: Single and Happy provides "Fresh Perspectives on Living Solo."

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"Marital privileging marginalizes the 50 percent of Americans who are single," they continue. "The U.S. government is the main perpetrator, but private companies follow its lead. Thus marital privilege pervades nearly every facet of our lives."

For the piece, Arnold and Campbell—who describe themselves as "not callous and repressed man-haters"—conjured two single women, earning $40,000 and $80,000 a year, and two married women of equivalent means, all living in Virginia. And, after doing exhaustive calculations in areas of income taxes, social security, IRAs, housing and health spending (and taking various liberties), they came to the following conclusions: Being single cost the lower-paid woman $484,368 over a 60-year lifetime, and a whopping $1,022,096 for the higher earner.

Arnold and Campbell explain that a 2009 New York Times story inspired their own. In that piece, reporters Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber compared a hypothetical married couple to an unmarried gay couple, finding a significant lifetime cost of being gay: $41,196 at best and $467,562 at worst. They pointed out that the discrepancy was an argument in favor of legalizing gay marriage.

"But in fact, legalizing gay marriage only solves the problem for a few," Arnold and Campbell write. "Many more single people (gay and straight)—more than half of the population—continue to suffer from institutionalized singlism, the discrimination of individuals based on marital status."

Though they expect that their calculations will be the target of criticism—and they have been, looking at the nearly 200 online story comments—the writers say their estimates were "conservative," and that they can come to only one conclusion: "Singles get screwed."

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