Marriage Stats

I had always assumed that the often-quoted “50% of marriages end in divorce” statistic was one of those bunkum urban-legend stats, akin to “75% of communication is non-verbal” and “you only use 10% of your brain.”

But it turns out the Center for Disease Control actually keeps stats on this issue. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in this survey, which was obtained by face-to-face interviews in 1995 with more than ten thousand women (a representative sample of the US).

In particular, Table 21 (on page 64 if you’re following along) lists “probability of first marriage disruption by duration of marriage.” It includes both divorces and separations without formal divorces, separated into columns by years and into rows by different characteristics, such as education, income, and religion.

If I’m reading this chart right, 43% of marriages fail in the first 15 years, which makes the often-stated 50% estimate for all marriages sound pretty reasonable.

More interesting is the breakdown by categories. It looks like if you want a long-lasting marriage, the best thing for you to do is to be an Asian. 23% of Asian marriages failed by the 15 year mark, compared with 42% each of white and Hispanic marriages and 55% of black marriages.

Religion does play a role, but not as much as you’d think given how much the Religious Right bangs on about the sanctity of marriage. 40% of “Fundamentalist” marriages marriages broke down before the 15 year mark, compared with 37% of Catholic marriages, 44% of “Other Protestant” marriages, and 56% of those claiming no religious affiliation.

How seriously you take your religion makes a difference too. 39% of those who claim religion as Very Important to them had a broken marriage by the 15 year mark, compared with 45% of those claiming it as Somewhat Important and 54% of those claiming it as Not Important.

There’s a lot of other factors that they track, and not just about marriage breakdowns. There are tables about the likelihood of first marriage by age (75% of women are marriage by age 30), probability of cohabitation transitioning into marriage, and probability of remarriage after divorce. It’s fascinating stuff to explore.

Those Romans Had a Good Idea

According to this article on the origins of Valentine’s day, the Romans, in their festival of Lupercalia had a “lover’s lottery”:

Roman armies took the Lupercalia customs with them as they invaded France and Britain. One of these was a lottery where the names of available maidens were placed in a box and drawn out by the young men. Each man accepted the girl whose name he drew as his love – for the duration of the festival, or sometimes longer.

Sounds like a cure for the anti-single-person nature of our modern Valentine’s Day.

Of course, when the ancient Catholic church subsumed Roman culture, the Pope dismissed the festival as pagan and immoral. (This may have had something to do with the naked men sacrificing a goat, wearing the goat skins, and hitting women in the streets with strips of goat hides to give them good luck and fertility.) He replaced it with a considerably more boring ritual:

The church decided to come up with its own lottery and so the feast of St. Valentine featured a lottery of Saints. One would pull the name of a saint out of a box, and for the following year, study and attempt to emulate that saint.

See, this is what happens when you let a guy who’s sworn never to marry run your religion. “Hey kids! You know what’s even more fun than girls? That’s right, studying!”

In any case, I hope you have a better Valentine’s Day than I’m having right now; I’ve got a sore throat that hurts whenever I swallow or talk. For once, I’m kind of glad I don’t have a girlfriend today, because that would mean talking.

But, you know, I wouldn’t turn the lottery down.

“If you build world class facilities, you will get world class students. If you build prisons, you’ll get prisoners.”

This is an amazing video from about six years ago. Bill Strickland built a world-class school in the middle of one of Detroit’s toughest neighborhoods. Now neglected kids and welfare moms are learning skills from reading to analytical chemistry to art.

All that it took to change these people’s lives was a little respect.

Presidential Candidates on Flickr

I was on Flickr today, looking at the map of photos around my home town, and discovered that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama both visited recently. They both have regularly updated Flickr accounts and geotagged their photos from their recent visits.

This lead me to searching around for other candidates with Flickr accounts, such as Ron Paul and Sam Brownback.

I discovered some interesting stuff, which I’ve summarized into this table. (It won’t fit in this blog’s template, so I’ve given it its own page).

Let me know what you think!

Religious History Timeline

Someone went to the trouble of putting thousands of years of religious history on a timeline. It’s really cool; it goes from A.D. 1 through present day, covering the reign of Pontius Pilate and the ministry of Christ through the publishing of The Da Vinci Code and the discovery of the Gospel of Judas. Click on any event to get a little more detail. The top two bands are Jewish history, while the bottom two are Christian history. It’s really interesting to poke through.

Kids stuck at home

The UK’s Daily Mail reports on how children lost the right to roam.

When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere.

It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.

Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas’s eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom.

He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home.

This is just sad. Check out the Daily Mail’s map:

Shrinking Boundaries

Why do parents let themselves be controlled by fear? There has never been a generation when kids were safer away from home than this one. If a child in the 1920’s sprained his ankle in the woods, he would have to lie there in pain until someone found him. A child today could call 911 on his cell phone.

I lay a lot of the blame for the terrified parents at the feet of the news media. They have scared parents into thinking that they must know their child’s location at all times, lest they be kidnapped.

The default emotion that people feel towards strangers isn’t trust, friendliness, or even curiosity, it’s fear. Every adult male over the age of sixteen is a perceived threat, even though the vast majority of people are fundamentally decent folks.

Turn off the news. Talk to strangers.

(Via reddit, where you will find a comment very similar to this post.)

Is this the best we can do?

Tonight, on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, as well as on alternative news sites like Newsvine, reddit, and Digg, one story grips the nation: Paris Hilton is going back to jail.

Seriously, what is wrong with us? Look, I’m not saying that Paris Hilton did anything right here. She has been convicted of driving under the influence, and she deserves to go to jail.

But is this really the most important thing that’s going on right now? Is this what deserves our attention as a nation? How about, for example, the fact that tensions are rising between Russia and the United States? How about the fact that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is stepping down? How about the fact that Swiss Senator Dick Marty’s investigation accuses the United States of running secret prisons in Europe?

These are events that are actually newsworthy, and it’s shameful that our media is so rabidly focused on such an utterly trivial concern.