Report looks at the mighty single population in Lawrence; another report lists Lawrence as one of the best cities to live
It should be no surprise a new study has found Lawrence to be one of the most predominantly single cities in America. Take this week: Most of the male population has blurted multiple times per day “%&$#?@! Poke-a-Doke.” My research has found this is an ineffective pick-up line for 95 percent of the population. (Hopefully the other 5 percent realize it is a basketball reference.)
Indeed, a new report from the financial website 24/7 Wall Street ranked Lawrence fourth in the country for the percentage of single residents in our population. The report examined Census data for 384 metro areas and found more than six in 10 people 15 and older in Lawrence are single.
Not surprisingly, college towns dominate the list. Ithaca, N.Y., home to Cornell University, is No. 1 on the list. Bloomington, Ind., home to Indiana University, is No. 2, and Gainesville, Fla., home to the University of Florida, is No. 3.
What does this ranking mean for Lawrence? Having a large number of single residents isn’t necessarily positive or negative. Lots of people are single because of the stage of life they are in, others are single by choice, some due to death or divorce, and, I suppose, a few are single because they haven’t yet figured out wearing a 1988 Scooter Barry jersey isn’t as attractive as it used to be.
But having a large amount of single residents does shape a community in many ways. One of the more obvious ways involves the school system. Single residents are less likely to have children to go to K-12 schools. Arguably, another potential impact is with the housing market. Smaller households may be more likely to rent an apartment or own a condo rather than live in a single-family home. A community that has 60 percent single and 40 percent married residents is going to look and feel different from a community with the inverse.
And while it is not a perfect measurement, the single population might say something about how much of a college community we are. There are plenty of college communities that didn’t make this top 25 list. The fact that we did may be an indication that we haven’t diversified our economy beyond the traditional college town economy. If Lawrence were a college community that also attracted large, private research firms or corporate headquarters — like some college communities have — the numbers might look a bit different.
So, maybe it is worth pondering a bit what it means for Lawrence to be such a single community. Instead of relying on numbers from the 24/7 Wall St. report (I had a hard time figuring out what section of the Census they were pulling from) I pulled my own numbers from the Census. Here’s the rundown for Lawrence’s single population 15 and older, according to the 2016 American Community Survey five-year average report.
• Never married: 52.3 percent. Men are more likely to be in this category than women with men at 54 percent and women at 49 percent. About 6 percent of all men 65 and older in Lawrence have never been married.
• Divorced: 8.4 percent. Women are more likely to be in this category with women at 10 percent and men at 6 percent. The demographic most likely to be divorced in Lawrence are women 55 to 64 years old. About 25 percent of that demographic is divorced, according to the numbers.
• Widowed: 3.8 percent. Perhaps not surprisingly, women lead this category. (Watching missed free throws is harder on the male heart, perhaps.) Women are widowed at a rate of 6 percent while men are just under 2 percent. Almost 38 percent of all women 65 and older in Lawrence are widowed. That is almost equal to the number who are married.
I thought it also would be interesting to look at how we stack up to some other Kansas communities in terms of singles. It is a reminder of how different we are from most cities in the state:
• Topeka: 32 percent never married; 15 percent divorced; 6 percent widowed.
• Olathe: 26 percent never married; 10 percent divorced; 3 percent widowed.
• Wichita: 32 percent never married; 13 percent divorced; 5 percent widowed
• Overland Park: 28 percent never married; 11 percent divorced; 5 percent widowed
• Manhattan: 55 percent never married; 6 percent divorced; 2 percent widowed
As you can tell, Manhattan actually is more single than Lawrence, but it is small enough that it wasn’t included in the ranking by 24/7 Wall St. Manhattan doesn’t have a Poke-a-Dok problem, but it can be difficult to find a cologne to cover up a day at the veterinary school.
In other news and notes from around town:
• I might as well pass along one other piece of ranking news. Lawrence recently ranked No. 23 on the 100 Best Places to Live list compiled by livability.com. The site calls Lawrence a dynamic community for shopping, dining and entertainment venues.” It also highlights our downtown, our park system and our “robust music and arts scene.”
The report uses data from a variety of sources, including the Census and several nonprofit organizations. Lawrence’s highest scoring areas were in education, economy and civic engagement. Lawrence’s lowest scoring areas were in infrastructure and diversity of the population.
College towns do well in this ranking, and Lawrence wasn’t the top in the state. Yes, our friends in Manhattan did exceedingly well in this ranking. Manhattan just missed out on being the best place to live in 2018. It came in No. 2 on the list. It lauded Manhattan’s bustling downtown, the Aggieville district, affordably priced housing, and even noted that the Manhattan Regional Airport is the second busiest commercial airport in Kansas. Well, OK.
Some other towns of note on the list:
• No. 4: Iowa City
• No. 11: Overland Park
• No. 16: Boulder, Colo.
• No. 19: Lincoln, Neb.
• No. 21: Columbia, Mo.
• No. 53: Ames, Iowa