The average marriage

June 10, 2007

Clipped out of a graph in The Economist. We’re often threatened with the claim “half of all marriages end in divorce”. The problem with this is that it talks about the average marriage. The thing is, you’re not average, and likely aren’t interested in the average marriage.

Sure the divorce rate is dismal if you include all the third and fourth marriages, the people who marry just to immigrate, the unemployed, and those who didn’t finish high school. So, when rational people hear about that average divorce rate, we start worrying that the odds are against us. I don’t want to enter a marriage that has a 50% chance of failing! Oh my god! What do I even want from life?!

An interesting article from the Economist last week says:

…the divorce rate among college-educated women has plummeted. Of those who first tied the knot between 1975 and 1979, 29% were divorced within ten years. Among those who first married between 1990 and 1994, only 16.5% were.

It turns out that divorce rates aren’t rising like is popularly believed. Not only are they decreasing, but they’re diverging. It’s like the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer. Specifically, the educated are getting better marriages, and the uneducated are getting worse ones.

Since you’re reading this, you’re probably not an unemployed 37 year old black woman, looking for a fourth husband. Therefore, if you get married, you’ll probably succeed. You can’t let statistics of what’s average scare you, since you’re almost never average. The average person on earth lives on $7,000 a year. You’re above average in some things (like choosing what blog to read), below average in others (like ability to perform rap music).

P.S. to the Economist’s Master Graph Maker: Colour the graph lines in order from most to least, rather than having High School and Master’s Degree almost the same colour. Read some Tufte. Geez.

© Allen Pike. See also Twitter and Steamclock.