Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why you should wait to get married until you're a little older

Well, apparently unless I post something super dramatic and controversial, no one cares to comment on my posts.

So I thought maybe I would bore entertain you all with some information from my dissertation. Cause I can. Also cause I'm tired of writing it right now.

Here's a graph I made today:

That's the rate of divorce by the age at which you marry. Neat huh? I've never seen a better argument for not getting married when you're a teenager.

But what's up with that little blip at age 25? This is my theory....first of all, this graph includes information on marriages formed between 1965 and 2002, so that's important to keep in mind. My theory is that 25 is one of those ages (like 30 is now..and there's a smaller blip around 30, look at that!) when people feel/felt like they HAD to be married by in order not be an old maid. Oh did I mention these ages are all women's ages? So maybe some proportion of these women got married when they were 25 to a less-than-ideal partner, simply because they were afraid of becoming an old maid if they got married later!

That's my theory anyways, and I don't have any numbers to back that up. Anyone have any other ideas?


  1. Fascinating graph. 22 (my own age at marriage) doesn't do as badly as I would have thought.

    I think you're probably right with your 25 theory. Maybe compounded by the set of people who find someone in college, then get engaged when they get out, then get married a couple of years later, just before they have babies - because that's what you do.

  2. I wonder if this an argument for OJ's not to marry young, one would have to collect statistics for this group to find out.

    But I guess it may point to the fact that OJ's who marry young might not be as happy as those who marry older.

  3. I've been saying this for years. When I was younger, I always thought that I'd be getting married at a young age, but thankfully, I've realized that it'll happen when it happens, and I don't have an expiration date.

  4. All right, I'll come out of lurking to post. The only thing that I find depressing about this chart is that my age of matrimony was so old, it didn't even make the chart! :-) Where I was living at the time (Seattle), when I married at just shy of 34, I was one of the young ones! What happens to all of us who married (for the first time, of course) later in our 30s and early 40s?

  5. lol Jenny- I left out people after 32 because after that it was pretty much flat and didn't show a pattern, so I wanted my graph to focus on the prettier downward pattern for earlier ages. So the answer is..after age 32 it pretty much is flat. :) The exact divorce rate for people marrying at age 33 and 34 are 14% and 11% respectively. :)

  6. Pen- the thing is, if the vast majority of a population gets married between age 18 and 22 (as I assume the ultra orthodox do), that means the women who don't get married by 22 or so are more likely to be weird or un-marriageable in some way (not that ALL are, but much more are when compared to people who get married off quickly). So it might show a totally different pattern. Unfortunately the population of orthodox jews is so small that no dataset I know of has enough of them to test this out.

    I bet until at least around 22 it would be similar though (except depressed because of the overall depressive effect of religiosity on divorce- people who are super religious are less likely to get divorced in general, because many religions/religious cultures frown upon divorce)

  7. That's so interesting!

    How about 40+? Flat line? (Oh, that sounds bad ...)

    Your age 25 theory is convincing - it would also be interesting to see at what age they get divorced. I wonder if people who get married older stick it out not because they're happier but because of other factors such as being afraid of being alone, having children more quickly.

    I just think of Jon Gosselin saying "I'm excited about a new chapter in my life. I'm only 32 ..."

  8. About 12 years ago when I took a class on Couples and Family counseling another stat was quoted and now I am wondering where the data was from. People generally refer to a "50%" divorce rate. According to my professor, 75% of couples who get married under the age of 27 get divorced while only 25% of couple who marry after 27 get divorced. But I have no idea where he got that from. Oh, and once you hit the 10 yr mark, apparently you're chances of making it for the long haul are significantly greater.

    So I guess as a person who married well before 27 but has been married for 13 yrs, I can consider myself one who defied the odds and now it is all smooth sailing (and actually, I still think my husband is the greatest guy out there).

  9. the divorce rate was around 40% for a brief time in the 80s...it was never at 50%. Right now the overall divorce rate is around 33%. Your professor was totally wrong. :)

    Also, not 75% of people under the age of 27 get divorced...even people who get married at age 16 have lower than a 65% chance of divorce. Maybe it was that 75% of couples that get divorced married before the age of 27? But also like 75% of couples that marry at all marry before the age of 27...

    but yeah, the longer you are married the lower your chance of divorce, because chances are if you're going to get divorced, it's going to be earlier. :)

  10. Well, is the blip statistically significant?

  11. I think there are a lot of variables that contribute to this. We're generalizing no matter what we say, but 25 (in aggregate) may coincidentally be a time of overly high expectations coupled with particular stresses. It would require much research to prove, but I imagine there are three major groups in that demographic: (1) Those who went straight to college through to grad school, and are thus starting a whole new phase of life (moving, starting a new career, transitioning from school & loans to work & autonomous responsibility); (2) Those who have either ignored school completely or gone no further than a BA, and have thus spent at least the last 3 years working; (3) people who got married or into “super cereal” relationships (in many cases with healthy doses of religious confounds) earlier, divorced once already, and are marring again on the “rebound.” Each one of these groups (let alone the hundreds of more individualistic/outlier scenarios) would require its own explanation. The first set probably suffers way too many forms of stress for two people with little real-world experience to handle all at once (i.e., marriage is not like that live-in significant other you had during your junior year in college, not even close). The second group probably suffers from excessive expectations – that everything will be a certain way, and when they’re not the first reaction is to “send it back.” Ask anyone whose engaged and they’ll tell you that they “know” how hard it can be. They’re thinking of big things – mortgages, working too many hours, children, in-laws. What they don’t think about is little things like “I was the one that wash the dishes the last 17 times!” or “TOILET SEAT ARRRGGGHH!” When roommates do this, it’s no big thing. When our SPOUSE does this, it’s a personal attack, proof of our major mistake, our fate forever unless we get divorced now, etc. As far as the last group, I’ve seen that exact scenario play out, in my own extended circle of friends, three times in the past three months. Rebounds are never good, rebounding from one marriage to another is even worse. Why 25 seems to be the peak age for group #1 and, to a certain lesser degree #3. I would suggest that group #2, for all intents and purposes, overlaps the actual causes associated with groups #1 and #2.

  12. group #3 isn't in this chart btw...this is for first marriages only. :)

    interesting insight into the stresses associated with being in your mid 20s...but why then would marrying at 25 be different than marrying at 24 or 26? The same stresses will be there at those ages, at least at age 24...

    also, engaged people probably know about SOME Of those stressers, given that over half of marriages now begin with cohabitation. And cohabitaiton with a fiance is a lot closer to marriage than having a roommate (actually another part of my dissertation is about that- looking at how behavior changes as cohabiters become more certain of their marriage prospects and eventually move into marriage. Cohabiters who are engaged and have set a date for their marriage are completely indistinguishable from married couples, except for a few things like health insurance that are direct legal benefits of marriage).

    moom- statistically significantly different from what? :) You need a comparison group...i haven't estimated that kind of a model though, so I don't know.

  13. I got married just after my 25th birthday, but in my defense, I did have a kid. He continues to age me exponentially.

  14. hey 25 isn't a bad age to get married at or anything...actually that's right around average for the US. :) It's only a bad idea to get married if you are getting married cause you're freaked out that you're turning 25 (which I assume is not the reason you got married). :)

  15. Is the probability of getting divorced if you marry at 25 statistically significantly greater from the probability of getting divorced if you get married at 24? In other words is the bump in the downward trend at 25 real or just noise?

  16. Who is Sookie Stackhouse and why should I read her books?
    Have a fantastic time on your honeymoon cruise and take lots of pictures!
    Hope (married @ 23)

  17. david- i have no idea, and now I'm done with work until after my trip so you won't know for a couple of weeks at least. :) (I can't run the stats at home unfortunately, I can't afford the software).

    Lucy- I will be taking lots of pictures and posting some here hopefully as I go.

    The Sookie Stackhouse novels are the books that the HBO series "True Blood" is based on...it's kind of a mix genre mystery/vampire/southern/romance/action adventure books. Not great by any literary standards probably, but great for vacation reading. :) It takes place in a modern day town in the deep south a few years after vampires "came out" as being real and started trying to integrate into normal society.

  18. Could the blip at 25 just be noise in the data, like a certain portion of women who married in their mid-twenties (say, 23-27) reporting to the researcher that they married at 25? I thought it was well-known that people tended to report round numbers on surveys. I'd think this would be even more likely if some of the data is in the form of men reporting their wives' ages.


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