Friday, March 16, 2007

Marriage by State Numbers

I'VE PUT AN UPDATED AND MORE EXTENSIVE LOOK AT THESE STATS HERE.

Similar to the data on marriage I looked at involving various countries (here), I’ve split the US of A by states, on how they treat same sex unions (with DC and Puerto Rico included also). It's too soon to look at trends but we can look at the current status:

The bar graph shows marriage rates in blue and divorce rates in red, all per capita and all an average of the data I could find (2003 to 2005). The groups are: 1. The average of all states, 2. The average of those with laws and constitutional amendments against equal rights for gay couples, 3. Those with only anti-gay rights laws, no amendments, 4. Those offering civil unions, and 5. Those with full state marriage rights (lonely little Massachusetts). Note that some may define gay couples away from marriage, and yet still offer some civil union recognition, and some states have not acted in this area.

As can be seen, states that have legally acted against marriage for gays do have a slightly greater marriage rate than average. But those with some sort of civil union for gay couples have a significantly higher marriage rate.

While Massachusetts is at the low end of US marriage rates, again, it must be remembered that respect for the institution is not shown in marrying often and divorcing often. As far as having a low divorce rate goes, Massachusetts is #2 in the nation and has been for most of this decade. Utah, with all our politician's talk of family values, is #32 in the nation; most states have lower divorce rates than we do here.

In fact, if you subtract the divorce rate from the marriage rate (the distance from the red to the blue bar), Massachusetts has the same score as the average of all the states. But when all the states that have at least some sort of legal rights for gay unions are averaged together, they have the highest score by far, 32% higher than the anti-gay marriage states. They have more marriages and more marriages that succeed.

Again, what to make of such numbers? It’s too soon, but I’ve heard many claim great confidence in their theories of how rights for our families will mean ruin for marriage. They sometimes claim to have evidence, but, as discussed before, it often falls flat. Here I simply wanted to show their dire if-you-have-it-we’ll-not-want-it predictions and their governments-only-give-gays-marriage-if-the-people-don’t-respect-it theories are not seen in the US data. If anything, it’s the opposite.

Data from the US government’s fedstats.

10 comments:

MoHoHawaii said...

Economic factors play a role here.

States that are friendly to gay rights, including domestic partnerships and marriage, tend to be states with a more educated population and higher incomes, such as the Northeast.

There is a positive correlation in the U.S. between income and marriage rates and a negative correlation between income and divorce rates.

This isn't unrelated to the gay rights issue. For example, one way that I interpret the "backlash" against gay acceptance during the last few election cycles is as a response to economic pressure. When people feel backed into a corner economically, they get a lot less generous about things like civil rights for minorities.

David said...

Cog, would it be appropriate to say (for example, on a bumper sticker) that states with marriage equality have 32% more successful marriages, and reference your data?

Scot said...

Good points there MoHoHawaii.

I do worry what would happen if the US gets into great financial trouble for similar reasons. I don't want to move so far north as Canada :-).

Hi David,

I’d think it may tricky to understand what exactly 32% more successful means exactly. In this post, it’s the % increase in the rate of marriages minus the rate of divorce (in essence the accumulation of marriages per year per person) for the states with legal recognition for gay couples (not necessarily marriage) compared to those who have laws against such. Can’t fit that on a bumper sticker :-). This is a measure of success in that it correlates with the % of marriages that don’t end in divorce, but, as I’ve just this snapshot of 3 years, it’s not exactly the same thing. Let me see if I can find the actual marriages that don't end in divorce #'s.

I’ve no problem being referenced. But, this blog may not be the best place, too casual and temporal. Posts like this are actually material I’m putting together for a larger site; where such topics will be discussed in more depth and with more documentation (and permanence). That site should, should :-), be up and running in a month or two, if not sooner. I’ll certainly point to it from this blog once it’s ready.

Silus Grok said...

Other factors should also be looked at... for example, how was the data for marriage rates and divorce rates calculated. In Utah, for example, our large under-age population and high rate of emmigration could be artificially deflating our marriage rate (a lot more of our population is out of the marriage pool, and when they come of age to marry, many have moved away), similarly, the divorce rate could be tied to the large student population (starter marriages) that may evidence a higher failure rate than a more age-distributed model.

I dunno... but there are certainly more issues here than how many folks marry and divorce. There's context... and we don't have much of that.

It reminds me of the statistic that talking heads like to throw around of "50% of marriages fail". Which, from my limited understanding, is a valid statistic — but those using it assume that means that if I marry, I have a 50% chance of divorce. But that's not the case, as people who divorce once have a higher chance of remarrying again and divorcing again. My mom, for example, had multiple marriages and multiple divorces. She's one person creating more than her share of divorces.

Moreover, I wonder about how immigrant populations play into this: Massachussetts has a sizeable immigrant population, whose values translate (I'm pulling this out of my hat, here, so I may be wrong) into lower divorce rates. These old-school marriages could be influencing the statistics as well.

Anyway, this is all to say that we have an incomplete picture... and probably will for a generation or two. For me (as a gay many who _doesn't_ favor gay marriage), in the end, it's not about divorce rates. I submit that we'll find that gays and straights marry and divorce in similar numbers (once the gee-whiz factor wears-off). Marriage is foremost about children... and I think that children deserve a loving home with a mother and a father who are committed to the long-term stability and health of their family (starting with their marriage).

Anyway...

Silus Grok said...

And I forgot the obvious: how do you think that this bears on the actual debate? If gay marriage showed a statistically significant and negative impact on marriage success among straights, would that be a meaningful argument against it? Would the converse be true? Or are you just trotting out the numbers to point-up the silly people opposite you on the issue?

I'd like to hear more of your thinking on this front.

Silus Grok said...

(Re-read that, and it's coming off as snarky... sorry. I love your writing and your contribution to the discussion, and though we're on opposite sides of this issue, I very much enjoy/value your thoughts on an issue that very much affects our community.)

Scot said...

Heck, I’m used to snarky and far beyond in this arena.

If gay marriage showed a statistically significant and negative impact on marriage success among straights, would that be a meaningful argument against it? Would the converse be true?

The weight of their arguments could increase. If, by some mysterious and unforeseen mechanism, say, 50% of straight marriages failed the day a gay stay-at-home dad got his partner’s SS funds after being widowed, then sure, I’d have to say the cost may not be worth it.

But I’m generally a small government sort of guy, and think it should be there to defended us from taking rights from each other unjustly (which of course :-) includes to my mind taking my family’s tax dollars by threat and then not giving us back equal rights as one of us has the wrong anatomy). Beyond that, I do think attempts at social engineering are a dangerous side project for government.

Or are you just trotting out the numbers to point-up the silly people opposite you on the issue?

Yes. I’d not make claims of a causal relationship. I mainly want to dispel the myth I’ve seen others promote.

how was the data for marriage rates and divorce rates calculated.

# of marriages (or divorces) per year per citizen (or per 1000 citizens here).

In Utah, for example, our large under-age population and high rate of emmigration could be artificially deflating our marriage rate

I didn’t look at Utah’s marriage rate but do you have data on the emigration for the states?

I’ve seen numbers on the average number of children in Utah, but that high number of those outside the marriage pool (and dependent on parents) only makes the rank I did report, the one for divorce, seem even worse for us.

the divorce rate could be tied to the large student population (starter marriages) that may evidence a higher failure rate than a more age-distributed model.

Sure, but, first, are there numbers on that? Is Utah’s college student pop per person that much higher than, say, Massachusetts, or the average?

Regardless, rushing into marriage and then divorcing is a bad sign too.

I did look at all the states I could, though, and averaged them together to try to get rid of such blips. IIRC, there are about 8 states with some sort of recognition for gay couples in that 4th bar.

I dunno... but there are certainly more issues here than how many folks marry and divorce.

I agree. But that’s what you’ll see touted by the other side. For example, that case with Sweden’s marriage rate I mentioned about a week ago, here.

Moreover, I wonder about how immigrant populations play into this: Massachussetts has a sizeable immigrant population, whose values translate (I'm pulling this out of my hat, here, so I may be wrong) into lower divorce rates. These old-school marriages could be influencing the statistics as well.

Certainly (Are the numbers there? Seems we have a sizable immigrant population too), but then it’d be interesting that these states are either those who have representatives who vote in civil unions or can’t amend against equal rights for such families. I mean, saying these gay-union-recognizing states are old-school traditional marriage states, would upset a lot of anti-gay marriage folks.

I submit that we'll find that gays and straights marry and divorce in similar numbers

Sure, it’s not even reasonable to look at the numbers among gay couples yet, it’s so new. That’s why I’ve only looked at straight marriages in these jurisdictions. I’d have to disagree though and say divorce rate is important. Each one represents a family split in two, often with children. It correlates with disrespect for the commitments of marriage. And the fact stands that the states that have, more than average, seen a value in offering equal rights to our families have lower divorce rates. I’m sure it’s tough for them to be lectured on family values by the rest.

Marriage is foremost about children... and I think that children deserve a loving home with a mother and a father who are committed to the long-term stability and health of their family (starting with their marriage).

I’ll leave this for an upcoming post, as it’s a prevalent argument in need of its own space. Just keep in mind you’ve told a man you think that his children, who do have a loving and stable home--I dare say more so than most--deserve a parent be replaced in their life with one of a different anatomy, and that’s why they all, children included, shouldn’t have equal rights. I get that the politics make such feel palatable, but to what other group, groups with children far far less advantaged than ours on average, would you make the same claim? What other, to your mind, sub-par parents shouldn’t have marriage rights and obligations? At least, for some groups, we can repeatedly find deficits for their children in the data, and yet not one person is trying to keep them from legal marriage.

Silus Grok said...

Yes. I’d not make claims of a causal relationship. I mainly want to dispel the myth I’ve seen others promote.

I figured that was it... but it wasn't explicit. Thought I'd ask.



I didn’t look at Utah’s marriage rate but do you have data on the emigration for the states?

I don't, in all of my points, I was relying on memory of articles read and news broadcasts and the like... for example, student emmigration has been a topic of several gubernatorial speeches over the years, as they complain that we're experiencing a brain drain which is undermining our prospects for a growing economy.



Sure, but, first, are there numbers on that? Is Utah’s college student pop per person that much higher than, say, Massachusetts, or the average?

The US Census 2005 American Community Survey pegs Utah at #1 in the nation for household size, and the state with the youngest median age ( by far — the state with next oldest median age is four and a half years advanced in a pool where states tend to differ by months). Though hardly conclusive, these suggest that we have a large pool of student material — I just wish I had the time to look into the numbers further.



Regardless, rushing into marriage and then divorcing is a bad sign too.

It is a bad sign... but the large student population (who, anecdotally marries at a younger age than elsewhere) could still be skewing the data.



I agree. But that’s what you’ll see touted by the other side. For example, that case with Sweden’s marriage rate I mentioned about a week ago, here.

Oh, I know. I've said it before, and I still believe that the loudest voices on the gay marriage issue are hardly shining examples of reason and intellect. Sadly, the status-quo cheerleading squad is largely staffed by homophobic philanderers... the progressives don't fair much better — their talking heads being mostly me-too children of privelege who bemoan the civil rights attrocities of "the man" but wouldn't know a civil right if it bit them in the arse.



Certainly (Are the numbers there? Seems we have a sizable immigrant population too),

According to that same survey, Utah is 11th in the nation for whiteness (at 89.8%), MA is still pretty white at 23 (83.4%) — though such a small difference could still have a large impact on our discussion were most of the non-whites to be immigrants and not simply non-whites of American heritage. Man, I wish I could grok stats like this better.



Sure, it’s not even reasonable to look at the numbers among gay couples yet, it’s so new. That’s why I’ve only looked at straight marriages in these jurisdictions. I’d have to disagree though and say divorce rate is important.

I don't think I said that divorce wasn't important... though I implied that for our discussion, divorce rates are not solid indicators one way or the other, as gays cross all socio-economic barriers, and will likely evidence the same predeliction for stupidity and self-serving antics as the rest of the country.



Just keep in mind you’ve told a man you think that his children, who do have a loving and stable home — I dare say more so than most — deserve a parent be replaced in their life with one of a different anatomy, and that’s why they all, children included, shouldn’t have equal rights.

I said no such thing, Scot... I can see why you might construe what I said in that way, but I would advise against it, as that is not my meaning in the least. If you'd like to read a more complete (though still not exhaustive) write-up of my feelings on the matter (feelings, I'll concede, which are still maturing), check-out my "Marriage Is for Breeders" series over at Nine-Moons:

http://silusgrok.blogspot.com/2007/02/baying-at-new-moon.html

Scot said...

On emigration numbers, I’m just saying there’s seemingly two contradictory things going on here. The idea is that we have large emigration, to the point that it decreases our marriage rate, and yet we have a large student population to the point that it increases our divorce rate. Does that make sense, as to why I’m uncomfortable with this argument without the numbers? There’s a timing issue as well, marriage before divorce... hopefully.

The US Census 2005 American Community Survey pegs Utah at #1 in the nation for household size, and the state with the youngest median age

That’s the one stat I’d just assume true :-). Again, I didn’t look at the marriage rate, in Utah, but that number does make our divorce rate seem worse.

Man, I wish I could grok stats like this better.

They can be very hard to find when you get to this level of specificity. I’ll see if I can track them down, as “Whiteness” is a couple steps away from the marriage rates of and percentage of immigrants. (again, it’s not just Massachusetts. I’m looking at states that have some recognition, in that 4th bar, which include, for example, diverse California)

I don't think I said that divorce wasn't important...

No, rereading you didn’t. Sorry for the mischaracterization. You did say it’s "not about divorce" and:

“divorce rates are not solid indicators one way or the other”

and I’d agree to the last part; but the rates are an indicator of marriage health… and they are what I could find :-) (and what’s been used against me).

check-out my "Marriage Is for Breeders"

I just finished reading over your posts there. We’ve probably both had this same debate many times :-). There’d be a lot to address, and I’d love to point you to some of my long-winded back-and-forths that touch on much of the same topics, but, alas, I don’t want Internet worlds to collide (old threats make me nervous). Much is linked to at the top right of my blod, there, but I’ve got a lot of stuff sitting around from all those debates, for which I’ll eventually find a place.

I’m going to get upset, though; it’s inevitable :-). We’re talking about the most important people in my life. I hope but don’t expect the mood to be rational or understandable, unless you have children or a stay-at-home parent you take care of. Simply, if we continue such a discussion and I get heated, tell me.

I still don’t see how I’ve misinterpreted, though. It seems you are saying “children”, a group to which our children belong, “deserve” or at least deserved a different home, with different people, no? Furthermore, that’s a main component for your argument against giving these rights and obligations (which do ironically help these children by making for a more stable home). I don’t see such a standard for marriage applied even to convicts, and I don’t see how else to interpret those words, but would welcome being wrong.

Silus Grok said...

On the last point... I do argue that all children deserve a home with a loving mother and father — preferrably their own. But "deserve" and "get", let alone "mandate" are worlds apart. I'm confident that you understand how I can believe in an ideal without forcing that ideal. I don't think any child's upbringing is ideal, but I believe strongly enough in that ideal that I think arming the people who must (on occassion) intrude into the home with as wide a berth as is reasonable.

Currently, when the system works as advertised, the state only intrudes into situations where there is reported abuse, or when there is evidence of gross neglect, or when the home brings the state into the picture through divorce or some other form of mediation. Which is as it should be. My position is simply that when government steps in, I want them to be able to (as the welfare of the child demands) find in favor of that ideal.

Codifying gay marriage ties their hands on one important part of the "ideal" equation.