Premium Singles Are Changing the World

In 2016 we released a report on the subgroup of college-educated millennial women who represent a historically distinct phenomenon worth marketers’ focused attention.

We called them Premium Singles. 

These college-educated, single women have shifted away from the “traditional” path in life: go to college, get married soon after, have kids sooner after that, and then move to the suburbs. They are earning more degrees than their male peers and are focusing on finding careers that will bring them both happiness and financial security. They have also reaped the financial benefits of getting married later. Women who marry at 30, compared to 20, average at least $20,000 more per year in income once they hit their mid-30’s.

Now, Igor Vojnovic and Minting Ye, researchers who study urban development and its social, physical, and environmental impacts, have analyzed how women in different cities, in different parts of a city, or even in the same neighborhood are involved in or affected by gentrification in different ways.

While our term was Premium Singles, it appears we aren’t the only ones to have found catchy names for these groups.

If you’re a woman and you’re single on the mainland [of China], it’s viewed negatively. Unmarried women over the age of 27 are called “sheng nu,” or “leftover women.” But in Hong Kong it’s seen in a more positive light. There, they’re known as “xing nu,” or “blooming women.”

As briefed in Fast Company, Vojnovic and Ye found that single women in Hong Kong have played a major role in gentrification.

They found that single women are emerging as a major factor in Hong Kong’s economy even to the point of driving the city’s increasingly unaffordable real estate market.

While our study focused on Hong Kong, we believe there is reason to think the same thing is happening in cities across the world, such as New York, London, Vancouver, and Singapore. That’s because these cultural trends–a rising number of single women in high-paying jobs and a delay in tying the knot–have been happening elsewhere for many years.

In our report three years ago, we found that there are 9.1 million 18- to 34-year-old women either with college degrees or soon to graduate. Although these women were delaying—or skipping—marriage and continue to, Premium Singles are not waiting to make large lifetime purchases. In 2015, millennials represented the largest group of recent buyers, making up 32% of the market, and women outpaced men.

Young women are also buying cars, homes, and furniture to decorate their homes. They are more likely than millennial men to buy a house (12% vs. 8%) and spend money on furnishings. They are, in fact, the best furniture customers because they focus on indoor home improvement.

The size and presence of this generation of independent female earners represent one of the most under-recognized opportunities of this decade. It is important to pay attention to the shift in behavior compared to previous generations when they were in their 20s and early 30s: Premium Singles are a new force that is able to use their higher incomes to spend or save at their own discretion. They have significant disposable income that earlier generations at this age were using to take care of families and children. They are also earning more over their lifetime, increasing their buying power and importance to marketers. 

These Premium Singles are using their distinctive levels of disposable income to shape the beginning of their lives as young working professionals and — whether they are aware of this fact or not — to shape the lives of the people around them.