Multiple Marriage

Richard Florida analyzes Pew Research Center marriage statistics at The Atlantic this week. He is particularly interested in the "Larry King effect" — people who have multiple marriages, defined as 3+ marriages. In fact, one in twenty Americans who report they have ever been married have been married three or more times.

First of all, three is the right threshold for the "multiples" analysis. I’m unmarried and teeter dangerously on serial monogamy — I completely understand the impetus to move on quickly from a failed relationship, to incorporate the lessons and try, try again on the next. Indeed, I’m unmarried precisely because I know how tempting it can be to forge ahead, how reckless that decision can be, and that the gravity of a contract to which God is a signatory should counsel against leaping without full, unadulterated certainty.

So studying these serial marriage statistics I’m struck by the idea of gleaning some important lesson, to learn the patterns that don’t work and to anticipate those in my own path. Some of these patterns are surprising.

I would’ve thought, for instance, that more members of a "creative class" would have multiple marriages than members in a neutral group, but evidently that class shows the highest negative correlation to mult marriages. Whether this indicates that fewer creative folks tie the knot is rather besides the point; from my perspective, I’m less interested in patterned serial monogamy and more in the idea of preserving some community sense of marriage sanctity.

Some of the statistics are predictable, and some, frankly, Florida massages (see his strained religious correlation at the bottom). But it’s worth taking a look nonetheless:

Class: Serial marriage was less likely in states with high creative class concentrations (a correlation coefficient of -.59). Conversely, it was was much more likely in working class states (.63). The effect of class was about the same as for income (-.58) and human capital (-.65). When we controlled for income, the association between class and marriage remained significant (-.33 for the creative class and .39 for the working class). Class appears to have a relationship to multiple marriage which is distinct from income.

Immigrants, Gays, and Bohemians: Multiple marriage was significantly less likely in states with high immigrant concentrations (-.38). Multiple marriage was also less likely in states with high bohemian concentrations (-.49). So much for the libertine bohemian lifestyle – at least when it comes to multiple marriage that is. There was no correlation between multiple marriage and the share of the gay population.

Religion: The Pew study did not find a strong correlation between religion – measured as the percentage of people who said religion was "very important" in their lives – and marriage or divorce patterns. Our analysis suggests at least a moderate one. Religion was positively associated with multiple marriage (.43). Multiple marriage was more likely in more religious states


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  1. Pingback: Big Think: Richard Florida « Unkategorized

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