The Media Gets it Wrong on the Rate that Women are Married

I recently posted a discussion here on the media coverage of the claim that 51 percent of "women" were not married. Well, Jeff Jacoby has a very nice discussion that makes some of the points that I raised earlier, but he also makes a new stunning one about the study counting women whose husbands are not living with them (away in Iraq for example) as being excluded from the sample of married individuals.

"Women," for example, isn't the word most of us would use to describe high school sophomores. Yet the Times includes girls as young as 15 in its analysis. Not surprisingly, girls who in many cases aren't old enough to get a drivers' license are unlikely to have husbands. According to the Census Bureau's 2005 American Community survey, 97 percent of females between 15 and 19 have never been married. Incorporating nearly 10 million teenagers in the ranks of marriage-aged American "women" may be a good way to pad the number of those without husbands, but it doesn't make that number more enlightening.

Actually, Census data show that even with the 15- to 19-year-olds, a majority of American females -- 51 percent -- are "now married." So how does the Times reach a contrary conclusion? By excluding from the category of women with husbands the "relatively small number of cases" -- in fact, it's more than 2 million -- in which "husbands are working out of town, are in the military, or are institutionalized." That startling Page 1 headline is true, in other words, only if the wives of US troops at war are deemed not to have husbands.

Marriage in America is undoubtedly less robust than it was 50 years ago. But it is not yet a candidate for the endangered-species list. The Census Bureau reports that by the time they are 30 to 34, a large majority of American men and women -- 72 percent -- have been married. Among men and women ages 65 and up, 96 percent have been married. Yes, the divorce rate is high -- 17.7 per 1,000 marriages -- and many couples cohabitate without getting married. But marriage remains a key institution in American life. . . . .



Blogger Zendo Deb said...

I'm not sure but I think the 15 year old cut off was selected to be compatible with past studies, since they mention that at some point (1930s?) 40% or more of the women in the 15-to-24-year-old category were married.

1/24/2007 8:34 AM  

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