Sunday, October 25, 2009

Marriage in Oklahoma

In the "maps that show Oklahoma as an outlier in funny ways" category of this blog, it doesn't get much better than this.
  • Oklahoma has the 5th highest share of divorced men, and 4th highest share of divorced women.
  • Oklahoma is number 2 for youngest median age of men getting married, and number 4 for youngest median age of women (26 and 24 respectively).
  • But I save the best for last... Oklahoma has the highest share of women who have been married 3 or more times, and 2nd highest share of men (a startling high 10 and 9 percent respectively. Now that's depressing.)
Go figure, those last two are strongly correlated. Relatedly, I find it striking that, while it is true that 10-year divorce rates have exceeded 50% in some demographic groups in the United States, the rate among those who get married after attaining a graduate degree is less than 15%. Unfortunately I can't find that reference at the moment...

It's also true that outcomes such as divorce rates and multiple-marriage rates and kids-out-of-wedlock rates are correlated with the prevalence of religious fundamentalism... Recall the highly entertaining study from a year ago crowning Utah as the state with the highest rate of internet pornography subscribers.

What surprises me (and I think should be studied further) is that this seems to be primarily a cultural phenomenon, not a result simply of higher numbers of poor or uneducated people who get married young for economic reasons or because they don't anticipate improved prospects with time or just because they don't question that it's 'the thing to do'. Anecdotally, among my high school class, a group of very smart students selected to attend a public magnet school, many of the ones who stayed in the state for college are already married, and few of those who left. Same thing with my junior high friends to an even more extreme degree - many of the ones who stayed in Oklahoma are married with kids already, and none of the ones who left. I suspect that religiosity is the component of culture that captures most of this phenomenon, along with the spillover effect in which the (very small) minority makes similar decisions as the fundamentalist majority in non-religious matters when enveloped in that culture.

Just to be clear, I certainly don't judge anyone's individual decision, but statistical generalities are true regardless of the circumstances of individuals who may or may not fit the pattern...