Marriage & Life Partners

Marriage-Averse Cities? A New Study Examines How Where You Live Affects Your Chances of Marrying

A recent article in The New York Times reported that U.S. geography and marital prospects are related. Though the researchers only studied men and women ages 30 and under, they found some consistent results:

“The most striking geographical pattern on marriage…is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado.”

Cities in blue states are particularly likely to dim marital prospects, but, “nationwide, the jurisdiction with the single largest marriage-discouraging effect is Washington. . .The New York area stands out even more. If we boiled down the list to only the country’s 50 largest counties, the top five in discouraging marriage would all be in the New York area.”

One is tempted to think this may be a correlation, meaning that there is another factor linking these findings. An example of this is the statistic that more ice cream is sold in warm weather. But ice cream doesn’t cause warm weather, nor does the reverse apply. But the researchers, a team of economists from Harvard University found that the link was causal even though they don’t fully understand it:

“The data, which covers more than five million people who moved as children in the 1980s and 1990s, suggests that children who move from, say, Idaho to Chicago really do become less likely to marry, even if the numbers can’t explain exactly why these patterns exist.”

They found, for example, that among people who have moved as children, women that move to New York City are less likely to marry than those who move elsewhere, and the younger their age at the time of the move, the stronger the effect. And though they haven’t got the data yet for subjects beyond the age of 30, they expect the trend will continue: “Children who grow in New York, among other places, appear less likely to be married by 26, less likely to be married by 30 and probably less likely to marry at any point.”

The most consistent effect was the strong connection to the political divide in America. Blue areas discourage marriage relative to red ones. And in the Deep South, there is an economic disparity as well. There, the poorer you are, the less likely you are to marry. This effect was found among those who moved to a poorer area even if they had previously lived in a more affluent neighborhood.

Living in a small town helps your marital prospects, even in blue states. The less densely populated your area, the greater your chances of tying the knot. Again, they don’t know why but I can imagine it is lonelier being single in such a place than in a big city with more social opportunities.

Yet it appears that most of the difference may be explained by attitudes. In Utah, the heart of Mormon country, there are strong cultural norms favoring, marriage. Young people there are encouraged to marry and do so earlier than in other areas.

Polling data that supports the idea that attitudes about marriage make a big difference. When asked “if society was better off when people made marriage and having children a priority, 59 percent of Republicans said yes, while only 36 percent of Republicans said society was just as well off if people had other priorities. For Democrats, the shares were virtually flipped: 35 percent and 61 percent.”

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  • Mary F April 19, 2018 at 8:24 am

    Regarding women talking of moving to Alaska, there is a sayingi in Alaska that “the odds are good, but the goods are odd.”