For a lot of single people, Valentine’s Day can be a little depressing — a national holiday that just rubs it in.
And the day may be more traumatizing in Seattle than other places because, apparently, we are the worst city in America to find love, according to a popular national podcast that focuses on dating. It’s a distinction we’ve held for two consecutive years.
Is it true? Like the Seattle Freeze, it comes down to opinion and experience. No matter how many “studies” are published online, there’s no legitimate way to quantify how good or bad any city is for dating simply by using data.
But here’s something I stumbled across looking at census figures, and — who knows? — maybe it’s related to Seattle’s terrible reputation among young people hoping to find love.
Of the roughly 225,000 people living in Seattle aged 18 to 34, 85,000 — that’s 38% — are either married or living with a partner. Among the 50 largest U.S. cities, that ties for the fourth-highest percentage of young adults who are probably not in the dating pool.
One reason that struck me as unusual is because, in this regard, we’re unlike many of our demographically similar “peer” cities. Seattle’s 38% is a full 10 percentage points higher than San Francisco, and 12 percentage points higher than Boston or Washington, D.C.
So, for example, take Boston, a city with nearly identical population as Seattle. But Beantown has about 30,000 more young adults who are not cohabitating with a spouse or partner. To be sure, that doesn’t necessarily mean Boston is a better city for young people who are dating, but it certainly can’t hurt to have more single folks to choose from.
Seattle ranks in the top five with some cities that we are hardly ever clustered together with in demographic rankings — places that are much more conservative politically, and are known for things such as a strong military presence or an abundance of evangelical megachurches: Colorado Springs, Oklahoma City, Virginia Beach and Omaha, Nebraska.
There is an important distinction, though. The four more conservative cities have a higher percentage of married younger people, while Seattle ranks near the top for cohabitating unmarried partners.
Even so, in terms of finding love, the end result is pretty much the same: Relatively fewer singles in the population of young adults.
In Seattle, about 22% of young adults are married, which is a little above average for the 50 largest cities, and high when compared with many of our peer cities (to use Boston again as an example, just 15% of young adults are married). But we’re still a lot lower than, say, Colorado Springs, where 30% of residents ages 18 to 34 are married.
But in Seattle, 16% of young adults live with an unmarried partner, which ranks second highest, slightly behind Portland. And again, most of our peer cities are significantly lower.
It’s not quite clear to me why Seattle has a higher percentage of married and cohabitating couples than our most demographically similar cities. Perhaps readers of this column will weigh in with some theories.
One question that we can’t answer from the census data: What percentage of young folks moved to Seattle already married or partnered, and what percentage started off in the city single and then met someone here? If a large share of these couples met and started dating while living in Seattle, it would suggest that we’re not such a bad place to find love after all.
The census data does not include college students who live in dormitories, but those who are enrolled in college and live off-campus are counted.
Another point about the data: Unmarried people in a committed relationship who, for whatever reason, do not live together, would appear as single in the data when in fact they are not. The data also doesn’t include categories for more unconventional romantic living arrangements, which may be more common in Seattle than most cities — as far as I know, the Census Bureau has no plans to count “thruples” anytime soon.
I should mention that there is one demographically similar city to Seattle that nearly matches us for coupled-up young adults: Denver, where 37% are either married or living with a partner.
Interestingly, the Mile High City is Seattle’s chief rival as the worst city for finding love, having also earned the distinction two times by the same dating podcast.