Young Uneducated People in Red States Marry Faster. News at 11!

Young Uneducated People in Red States Marry Faster

I love the New York Times, but I’m a little frustrated with this graph I’m about to share with you. According to the  statistically-minded Upshot section:

“The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, 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.

These conclusions – based on an Upshot analysis of data compiled by a team of Harvard economists studying upward mobility, housing and tax policy – are not simply observations about correlation. The economists instead believe that they have identified a causal role that geography plays in people’s lives. 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.”

Interesting stuff.

My big issue is that this study  only reports on people who are married by the age of 26!

And, in my opinion, NO ONE should be married BEFORE the age of 26.

So what is this really telling us that we don’t already know?

Red states, overall, have higher marriage rates, higher divorce rates, higher pregnancy rates, higher rates of religious belief and lower rates of higher education.

NO ONE should be married BEFORE the age of 26.

So while we can ascribe the Blue State marriage dip to  different values, as the NYT seems to do in this paragraph:

“When the Pew Research Center asked last year 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,” I think that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

People who are more educated are more likely to use birth control, more likely to strive for advanced degrees and higher career achievement – all the more reasons they would not get married before the age of 26. Almost all of my closest friends  (Duke grads from the Northeast) were single at 35 and married by 38. We had careers to build and oats to sow. We didn’t want to make youthful mistakes, get divorced, have alimony and child support to pay. We were patient and wanted to get it right.

Is there more pressure to get married at a young age in red states? Probably. Are blue state residents more likely to have an open mind about carving their own path and eschewing marriage? That makes sense, too.

But since numerous studies have shown that the marriages that are most likely to succeed are ones between college-educated people over the age of 30, let’s not spend too much time worrying about why young adults from 18-26 in red states are getting married faster.

I don’t think that’s a trend that we really want to emulate.

Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.

Join our conversation (23 Comments).
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  1. 1
    Mary H

    Hi Evan,

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m a 24 year-old woman. I agree with a lot of what you say, but as for delaying marriage until the ages of 35 or 38 — well, that seems like it could make sense if you’re a man. But if you’re a woman, not only are there fertility issues involved in waiting that long, but women on balance have a harder time having casual sex, seek meaningful relationships, and can’t just “sow their oats.” Shouldn’t young women be encouraged to take dating seriously, despite their youth?

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Yes. 30-35 is a great time for women to find lasting love – and still have kids.

      1. 1.1.1
        Holly CJ

        No it isn’t. I think I have written on here before the late 20s is the best time to start to look for a mate. Data shows that after age 25 there is marginal risk of getting divorced vs marrying in 30s.

        The nhs chief just wrote a letter addressing a woman’s age and fertility.

        Arguing passionately for fertility lessons, she tells Mrs Morgan: ‘Information is power and the best way to empower people to take control of their fertility is through education.’ Prof Nargund said last night: ‘Ideally, if a woman is ready for a child, she should start trying by the time she is 30. She should consider having a child early because as a woman gets older, her fertility declines sharply.’

    2. 1.2

      As a man I never thought about it before, but I completely agree with you Mary.   Men can selfishly afford to wait until 35 to marry and so can career-focused women. But realistically, most women do not want to wait until 35 to marry. While Evan and his wife both got married at 35, his wife was actually divorced and married early in her life. Men can be extremely selfish and financially damaged from divorce, but 35 year old men also want to marry hotter younger women. Men and women view the necessity of marriage differently. Women may be insecure, religious, seeking monogamy, fear of loneliness, fear of losing her BF, or marrying for financial security. Most of all, women marry because they want monogamy no matter what their age. Women do not want to be slutshamed or have lots of pre-marital sex. Fear of divorce is a convenient excuse for men for delaying marriage, but fear of Love and commitment is the realistic excuse. Financially, east coast career-women can focus on making money to pay for birth control. Realistically, many women want to avoid pre-marital hookups with random men and can easily get pregnant. For these women, monogamous sex and pregnancy drive their reasons for young marriage. Never-married women over 30 also get scared as their options in men dwindle. Besides, divorce is an easy and acceptable option for women nowadays, so monogamous starter marriages are acceptable. Red state women see marriage as a religious commitment against pre-marital sex, protecting monogamy and likely pregnancy. Blue state women are okay with pre-marital sex and see marriage as a financial partnership. No women wants to wait until 35 to meet the “Love of her life.”

  2. 2

    I always appreciate reading these statistics. This is more affirmation, too, that I just married too young at 23. I was still too young to know what I really wanted.

  3. 3

    I’m going on 38, never-married.

    I’m from an expensive, yuppified, large coastal metro area and I’m living in one now.

    I don’t tell people I’m “educated” or “college-educated” but I do have a bachelor’s from a middle-tier state university.

    I’m part of the demographic who didn’t think once about marriage in my 20’s because, well, people “just don’t do that,” but my mind started to shift toward it by my mid 30’s.

    Being the age that I am and having taken a detached interest in marriage, I’ve come to hold the view that marriage, at least marriage in the modern/pre-1960’s era, was created by societies as a means of establishing paternity of and providing resources to raise children.

    In other words, marriage wasn’t invented nor was it maintained for no reason.

    Given this view, and contrary to this blog post, I’ve come to think that one should get married in one’s twenties or, at latest, early thirties, to start a family whereby to more or less make the marriage purposeful.

    I’ve come to think that it’s better to get married “early” even if it ends in divorce than to marry later and risk not having children. At least that way, someone can look back and think “yes, my marriage ended in divorce, but at least I got married once and parented children.”

    Otherwise, one can end up like me, going on 40, never married, and find himself wondering why I would want to get married at all- something I didn’t ponder until now.

    1. 3.1

      You are a man, you can still have children. Don’t give up hope. Also adoption!

  4. 4

    As to people getting divorced more often if they marry younger, I wonder if one of the driving factors there is just that they feel they have plenty of time to try again. For instance, if 2 twenty year olds get marries, and then reach a difficult point in their marriage by 26, they may think that they are still young, and have plenty of time to find somebody new.

    However, if two people who are 34 get married, then 6 years later, they are 40. They will see things differently. They won’t have that invincible feeling that time is on their side. So they may be more inclined to work through a difficult issue.

    Maybe the key lay more with us women on that issue also. They say we initiate most of the divorces, so a woman in her mid twenties will see plenty of prospects out there. She knows that the dating market is in her favor. A woman in her late thirties and early forties may not have as much confidence, knowing that the dating market is not as smooth sailing for them. So she may be more inclined to work through problems, and less inclined to initiate a divorce.

  5. 5

    This is not news to many of us. Watch the first 10 minutes of the movie “Idiocracy” for further illumination.

  6. 6

    I might be in the minority here but I regret not growing up sooner and getting married in my twenties. At 34, I may still have some time to have kids of my own, but it is a very real possibility that I may not get to. I think that people just don’t think about marriage at a young age because the single life is overly glamorized by society today. It’s possible that people just don’t mature as fast as they did in generations past, and are too focused on themselves to make the sacrifices necessary to a lasting marriage. I heard it plenty of times when I was younger: “Oh, just have fun, you’re young and you have your whole life ahead of you! Focus on yourself and get your career in order.” I wish someone had told me that I really needed to focus on preparing for marriage. I now might miss out on one of the most profound experiences I could have as a woman because I was too busy trying to “find myself”. To top it all, I don’t even have the career to show for it after all this time. I’m still living with my parents, still living paycheck to paycheck, and bonus! I now have to think about that fact that all that wasted time has severely restricted my chances of having kids of my own. Don’t think that just because people get married young, they’re automatically doomed. Maybe they’re just ready for it a lot sooner, unlike the rest of this society.

    1. 6.1
      Karmic Equation

      Your error wasn’t that you didn’t marry young, but that you ALSO didn’t grow your career. You should have a career so that you can feel independent.

      Had you focused on a good career, you could have had children via artificial insemination. A colleague of mine did exactly that. She wanted a child, but wasn’t in a relationship. Now her son is a strapping 14 yo and she couldn’t be happier. And he’s an honor student and a great kid.

      Now if you mean that you want a lifelong partner, you can still find that, no matter your age. It’s never too late to look for a partner.

      1. 6.1.1

        Did you really recommend artificial insemination over actually knowing and loving your child’s father ? Geez, I know relationships are very difficult, but find balance. “I was too busy with my career to meet someone I love, and have a family with, so I’m going to get inseminated”. My children are the impetus for my staying in a bad marriage, but they, not how much money I make, or how great my career is, will be my ultimate kegacy.

        Some things may work, but they aren’t necessarily the right or best way.

        1. Josie

          TJ, please don’t judge women for making that choice or diminish them.   I’ve become ambivalent about having kids, but if I was gung ho, I would not hesitate to go solo (or adopt).   Plus, with the divorce rate and unhappy marriage (you’re in one yourself), how integral  is it to “know and love the child’s father”?

          I agree that Karmic’s remark seems tone deaf in the context of responding to Holly.   How about helping the woman out rather than sending her down a spiral of regret, for goodness sakes. 🙁    Karmic, you post a lot, and it’s often helpful, but sometimes just think a bit more before you post.

          Holly – hang in there and stay strong!   34 is still so young.


  7. 7

    I agree with TJ – artificial insemination is NOT how I would choose to have kids. For one thing, it costs a ton of money, which would make it impossible for me. For another, I would never choose to intentionally bring a child into this world outside of a loving, stable marriage in which he or she would greatly benefit from having both a father and a mother present. Thirdly, artificial insemination goes against God and the laws of nature. If I were to be blessed with biological children, I’d want it to be because God wills it, not me. I appreciate your input, and I know it’s coming from a well-meaning place. I apologize if my previous post sounded like a pity party (which I guess it does, reading it again). I just meant to get the point across that the idea that people can guarantee marital success by waiting until they’ve got all their ducks in a row is foolish. What about growing together as a couple, in a union that is sanctioned by God? What about accomplishing milestones alongside each other, giving your spouse the opportunity to support you, and you the opportunity to sacrifice for them? What if marriage isn’t supposed to be the icing on the “what makes me happy” cake, but instead is supposed to be what makes a person holy? Just some food for thought, but maybe the statistics don’t really matter. Maybe what’s really important, regardless of age or income at the time of marriage, is your reasons for getting married.

  8. 8

    I am was born, reared and still live in a “red state”. The same state home to your alma mater. I went to a large state supported school (not your arch rival) and then went on to earn 2 additional advanced degrees. My parents were college educated and successful. All the girls in my family have college degrees and most of our children as well ( youngest still in HS). However, I did make the mistake of getting married too soon over 30+ years ago at the age of 24 and divorced several years later. I had an excellent education, but little life experience. I wish that I had waited, experienced life and career as a single woman and then considered marriage. I work in education and it great to see many of my younger co-workers enjoying life with less pressure and fewer expectations of getting married immediately after college graduation.

  9. 9

    Marrying under 25 is a recipe for disaster but as a woman I would not have wanted to wait until 30, especially if you want 2-3 kids. Fertility is unpredictable and a lot of my friend who married late had problems conceiving. I married young and divorced, but I also think my marriage would have ended had I met him later. We were simply not compatible for the long haul plus there were major issues he developed in his thirties that were not there 10 years earlier. We are both educated and both northerners, but the reasons the marriage failed were not due to age. I would advise women to marry at around 28. It is old enough to establish a career and finish education but young enough to have children.

  10. 10

    I am 37, childless and unmarried. Do I want to stay unmarried? No. I really, really want to find the right guy. Do I want kids? Not really. It’s not that I don’t like kids. My biology is such that even if I had tried to get pregnant ten years ago, it would have been challenging to stay pregnant. Secondly, I come from a family where there was a lot of psychological trauma, and I’m only just finding my way out of my insecurities, daydreaming about saving the money to travel around Europe by myself, because there are places that are “calling” to me. The kind of career I desire to build (now that many of my insecurities are partially faded) really would not be good for raising kids, even if I adopted–ESPECIALLY if I adopted. Plus, I need time to really be ME, as opposed to worrying about what my family thinks of me, etc.

    In addition, I am at a point where I’m thinking: “So many women dream of finding a ‘beautiful’ partner, but…all I truly want is to be financially independent, healthy, and have a partner who really gets me, instead of someone who looks down on the choices I make just because he disagrees with them, or doesn’t think I’m ‘thinking things through’ or ‘being practical.'”

    All we ever truly want, as human beings, deep down, is to be loved for ourselves. I think that is so much more important than whether our partner is beautiful, or if we can have kids. Those things are a bonus. Take it from someone who’s quite literally asking God to help me find someone, who’s coming from the perspective of not feeling good enough for “the normal people.” I am SO done with feeling like I have to be like everyone else. I am SO done with feeling like I am not good enough for someone who thinks I need to have the same beliefs–or lack of beliefs–as he does.

    I walk a solitary spiritual path (not belonging to a specific group on purpose), but that doesn’t mean I want to be alone, romantically speaking.



    1. 10.1
      Dina Strange

      I really like your thinking. A lot!

  11. 11

    If I could go back in time, I would take finding a husband far more seriously and in my early 20s.   I did get married at 29, but to me marriage was “just a piece of paper” and meant very little. My then husband didn’t want to have kids, and I was very focussed on my career. Now I am 45, divorced, childless, have a great career making excellent money. Who cares? Advanced degrees? Higher career achievement? So what.   The day eventually comes when one can’t cover up an empty life with pointless consumerism… I have nothing better to do with my money than pump it back into the economy (which is why I was taught to focus on career achievements over family in the first place but I digress). I am not my career.

    All of this is to say I disagree with Evan on this. 30-35 is not the ideal time to look for a husband/lasting love. In your 20s men and women who are equals mingle with each other every day. By ones 30s that simply isn’t the case –  a man who is 35 can and absolutely should marry younger if he is serious about raising a family. Furthermore, women’s bodies bouncy back very quickly when they have children in their 20s.

  12. 12

    Wow! I don’t know how so many in my parents generation managed their silver and gold anniversaries, since they should have all gotten divorced long before then. After all, they got married long before 26.

    Could it be that they BELIEVED in the concept of marriage, of working for the marriage and children, of thinking of other people besides themselves, instead of their own personal pleasure and what kind of wild oats they could sow before making a commitment to something larger than themselves?

    I like what Dixie said:

    “The day eventually comes when one can’t cover up an empty life with pointless consumerism… I have nothing better to do with my money than pump it back into the economy (which is why I was taught to focus on career achievements over family in the first place but I digress). I am not my career.”

    How about we teach some values that don’t include “It’s all about me, what I want and how much money I make.”

  13. 13

    I completely disagree with this article! I find it sad that you advise people to wait until 30 to get married, especially when 30 isn’t some “magic number” where you have everything figured out. There is no right or wrong age to marry as long as you are an adult. I do agree that one should complete their education, work, and live independently first. This can happen at different ages based on personal goals. Maturity trumps age every time.

  14. 14

    I am college educated. Got married at 31. Had three kids, the last one at 42. Divorced after 17 years of marriage. Waiting didn’t do me any good.   I would much rather have married young and finished having babies at 30, rather than started having babies at 32! I envy young, energetic women  whose kids are finished with college by the time they (the moms) are in their early 50’s. It’s much harder to get divorced at 48 than 38.   The energy just isn’t there.

  15. 15
    Dina Strange

    This world has 7.3 billon humans. Majority of them still live in poverty, and considering global warming and unstable economies, what’s the rush to have more kids?

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