Volume 47 - Article 24 | Pages 727–776

Heterogeneity among the never married in a low-fertility context

By Jolene Tan

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Date received:24 Mar 2022
Date published:18 Nov 2022
Word count:8690
Keywords:latent class analysis, low fertility, marriage, Singapore, singlehood


Background: While there has been extensive research on trends in marriage and singlehood, few studies have examined heterogeneity among never-married individuals in a low-fertility context. As a country that has experienced a steady decline in marriage and an accompanying rise in singlehood, Singapore presents a compelling context in which to study the singlehood phenomenon.

Objective: This study aims to understand variations in the never-married population based on their family-related attitudes. It seeks to classify the never married into subgroups and examine how these groups relate in terms of their sociodemographic traits and marriage desires.

Methods: Using data from the Perceptions of Singles on Marriage and Having Children study (N = 1,980), latent class analysis was performed to develop a typology of the never married. Latent class analysis applies a person-centered approach to identify heterogeneity between and homogeneity within subgroups based on associations among a set of observed indicators.

Results: Four never-married subgroups were identified: family conservatives (37%), conflicted conservatives (24%), family progressives (22%), and family skeptics (17%). There were distinct characteristics among subgroups in terms of age, sex, and relationship status. A strong gradient in marriage desires was found across the never-married subgroups, implying that variations between subgroups are an important determinant of the desire to marry.

Conclusions: The paper highlights the importance of recognizing diversity among the never-married population as a first step to understanding the flight from marriage.

Contribution: These findings have implications for societies with declining marriage and fertility rates, especially in contexts where marriage is closely linked to childbearing.

Author's Affiliation

Jolene Tan - Australian National University, Australia [Email]

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