Marry Young, Marry Often

Ten percent of Arkansans have been married three or more times, double the national average. That’s according to new data from the Pew Center. Arkansas also has one of the lowest median ages for first marriage: 26. If you’re looking for marital stability, look no further than New York State, where the “serial marriage” share is among the lowest in the country, at 2 percent (tied for last place with New Jersey and Massachusetts). (Would any divorce lawyers care to tell us why?) The median age for first marriage in New York is 30 for men (28 for women). More interesting correlations here, and check out this interactive map of the data, here. [%comments]


New York is the last state without unilateral no-fault divorce. New York divorce law requires both parties to notarize a separation agreement and live separately for one year before they can be divorced. Otherwise, one spouse needs to sue on the basis of wrongdoing.


NYS is the hardest state to get a divorce in. So hard, in fact, that separated couples will actually move to another state so that they can get their divorce processed faster. This skews the numbers for this study a little bit, I think.

Kenneth Allison

I am not a divorce attorney however I am a law student in Massachusetts and I did work as an intern for a divorce attorney. Massachusetts has a very favorable alimony statute, protecting the partner who made the least money in the marriage. Alimony in Massachusetts is often for life until one dies or gets remarried etc... This creates an economic disincentive to getting remarried. People instead live with their new significant other and combine "three incomes" the two partners and the ex's alimony payments.

Just my observation


I find it pretty ironic that the map of states in which multiple marriages are more prevalent is very similar to the red/blue political maps of states which tend to vote Democratic and Republican. Of course it is not the Red states were people get married and stay that way, but the Blue ones!

On might theorize that religious and social conservatism, by convincing young people not to have sex out of marriage, results in younger marriages which are less durable. The resulting divorces and broken families give rise to further conservatism ("liberalism is destroying our families!"), therefor perpetuating the cycle.

Thanks for pointing out that New York, Massachusetts(!), Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island are the bastions of family values, and that Mississippi, Alabama, Idaho, and Nevada are destroying the fabric of traditional marriage!


The cynic in me says that New Yorkers learn from their mistakes.


Hmm. I wonder if the measure of those divorced three or more times includes those who aren't currently or have never been married. If that's the case, it looks like a partial explanation for NY's position in that measure. NY is among the lowest of people married three or more times and *also* among the lowest of people not currently married. It's possible that they are not more committed to their marriages, but that they are less likely to marry or marry again.

Peter U.

Kenneth from Mass. -
Good observation on Massachusetts marriage rates being one of the lowest in the Union, even taking into account the gay-wedding-tourism which skews the data somewhat. You can search the CDC website for a neat whitepaper showing state-by-state (by year) marriage rate data.

The other factor supressing marriage rates in Massachusetts is that men (and a few higher-earner women) are aware of these "lower earner always wins" divorce laws, and thus are not risking marriage to begin with.


I ran some correlations on age when married vs. red/blue states, which is not exactly the same topic but pretty close. When looking at each state's average winning margin for democrats vs republicans in the last 5 presidential elections to determine their redness, blueness, or purpleness, and then took the census bureau's data on median age at first marriage, and found an amazing correlation of .87 (drops down to .83 if you remove DC, which was leaning towards outlier status) with states who vote more heavily democratic being married much older than states who vote more heavily republican.

I don't know why republicans get married earlier than democrats, but it is interesting that they apparently get divorced more often, too.

A colleague of mine theorized that it had something to do with how much they focus on education; this was his assumption based on no data that democrats care more about education than do republicans. I'd be interested to find a dataset that would perhaps help determine if that is the case...maybe per pupil spending.



Along the lines of what Aaron said above, I was wondering if it's states with high population densities. A high population density might imply that the market is capable of being much more fluid, thus you have more partnering pairings to try, thus you never get married for fear something better might be just around the corner.

If you live in the Bronx you probably have millions of potential mates in a 20 minute radius, but in rural Arkansas you might have a handful or less.


A couple of folks falling for the correlation cause issue here with the red/blue thing. You need to set up some controls.

Peter U.

One other thing on why MA is tied for last place (along with NY/NJ) for serial marriage rates. In MA, even the salary of the second wife can be garnished to pay alimony to the first wife.

No sane woman will want to marry into that kind of arrangement. In fact here is an article from NYT's sister publication, The Boston Globe, on how these divorce laws are having a "chilling effect" on the State's marriage rates:

Fascinating stuff.


For all posting about republucan and liberal and for this post a little, you overlook that the liberal states have a lower percentage married. They have more that shack up and never get married which more conservative types never do. So their lack of commitment doesn't show up on these posts. The above reporting and theorizing is what I would call skewed...


Cost of living, people, cost of living!

It follows that if it is easier for younger people to establish themselves independently then they will get married younger and have more opportunity to divorce. In high cost of living areas people wait until much older ages to marry since they literally cannot afford to living independently until later years. Who can get married when they are living with their parents until their late 20s versus right out of high school anymore? It probably goes with education that more people from those late marriage states go to college in order to be able to afford that expensive cost of living (or move away for college and stay away.)


Republicans obviously support traditional marriage by doing it more often.


I don't know the numbers, but just eyeballing it, I wonder if there is a correlation between currently divorced stats and cost of living. One household is a lot cheaper than two, and I would think this would have a larger effect in places with high cost of living/high real estate prices.


Rather than look at the figure for each state and see that "states with more % people of class X have more multiple marriages" it would be better to look at data that actually looks at whether people of class X have multiple marriages.

Plain Jane

Mass. alimony laws are barbaric and they are about to change because of the work of a citizens organization - Mass Alimony Reform - and thousands of disgusted and impoverished people. MA laws are so skewed to women as helpless housewives that women who were once married are never expected to lift a finger to become self-sufficient, even if they are young, educated, accomplished, and have no children. the laws evolved in order to make sure that the little ladies would never have to work once they got divorced. Enter LIFETIME ALIMONY for nearly every woman/lower-earning spouse who comes to court and says, I need it, I want it. Poor little me.

You've heard that the Presidents of MIT and Harvard are women? They haven't heard that in the family courts, where women are helpless and men are all hateful SOBS- even the guys whose wives ditch them for new guys.

96% of alimony payers are men. Men pay about 1/3 to 1/2 of their incomes until these women die. The women NEVER get remarried. You would have to be a complete idiot to walk away from this gravy train, if you chose it in the first place. Second wives of divorced men who pay alimony are FORCED but indirectly to use their own resources to support these first wives. Men who pay alimony have NO LEGAL RIGHT TO RETIRE AND HAVE THEIR ALIMONY LOWERED OR GOD FORBID ENDED! WHat would become of these ladies, who got 1/2 or more of the marital assets at time of divorce, AND the guy's social security? The men also have to maintain life insurance policies for these women in the range of $200K to $500K -- even after they get the house and the guy's pension and 1/2 the SS. Try paying for life insurance when you're 70 years, 75, 80...

If you don't have money to pay your ex the $20K or $30K or $100K a year because, say, your business failed or you lost your job, YOU GO TO JAIL PROMPTLY AND FOR MONTHS, NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

MA alimony laws exist beyond the US and the MA Constitutions, and the family courts are full of judges - men and women - who hate men so much that they treat them, their children from new marriages and their new wives like dirt. There is no other way to describe the behavior.

MA lawyers make a mint from these sick, sadistic laws, because people must return to divorce court over and over and over and over - throughout life because it's lifetime alimony, and in theory you get to go back "when circumstances change" and plead for a reduction - or, plead for more if you're the recipient. This is also called The Lawyer Enrichment Program. Your legal bills NEVER end.

If you know anyone getting married or divorced in MA, -- or even thinking of living there -- warn them to go elsewhere and refer anyone who wants to help get rid of these draconian laws to Mass Alimony Reform. - to read the many expose´s on this deplorable state and the many efforts toward reform that might be happening.



Get the facts right. "Ten percent of Arkansans have been married three or more times" is wrong. "Ten percent of Arkansans who are currently married and not separated have been married three or more times" is right. (Assuming no one in arkansas is married before age 15.)

Peter U.

Will there be an article/thread on why US marriage rates have been on a non-stop slide since 1969?


charles, thanks for your semi-clarification on correlation vs cause...I assume that was intended for me, but as I wrote in my above post,

"I don't know why republicans get married earlier than democrats..."

Which is a pretty direct way of saying that I'm not implying any kind of causation.