Going Solo in a Pandemic: A Longitudinal Time Diary Study of Single and Partnered Respondents’ Social Engagement and Media Consumption Before and During COVID-19
Robert Rinderknecht, Daniela Negraia1, Kelsey Drotning2, Long Doan, Liana Sayer3, Jessica Fish3, Emilio Zagheni4
1University of Oxford, 2University of Maryland, College Park, 3University of Maryland, 4Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Objective: This project seeks to understand if COVID-19-related social distancing affects single people more severely than partnered people.

Background: Governments imposed social distancing to reduce COVID-19 infections. These policies may disproportionately affect single people.

Method: We take steps toward assessing this possibility by focusing on changes in social engagement and media consumption (i.e., social media and other media, such as Netflix) before and during social distancing. Our data come from 168 respondents who provided time-diary data both before and during the widespread emergence of COVID-19 in the U.S..

Results: Rather than changing rates of social engagement and media consumption differently, single respondents instead started from a lower level of social engagement and a higher level of other media consumption relative to partnered respondents.

Conclusion: Single respondents report relatively little social engagement during COVID-19. Future analyses will assess the health consequences of these changes and their persistence in our broader sample.