Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Oct 21st 2009 at 9:43am UTC

The Larry King Effect

Last week, the Pew Research Center recently released its report on marriage in America. Based on data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey for 2008, it provides a wealth of data on marriage and divorce across the 50 states. Check out the map here. Catherine Rampell provides a nice summary over at Economix.

The thing that jumped out at me was the “Larry King” statistic – the number of people who have been married three or more times.

About one-in-twenty Americans who ever have been married said they had been married three or more times. That comes to 4 million men and 4.5 million women.

States varied a lot on this. Arkansas had the highest percentage of “serial marrieds,” 10 percent. This was five times more than New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts with just two percent. The study found that multiple marriages were less likely in states with high concentrations of college-educated people, and more likely in states with lower incomes and smaller college-educated populations.

Over the weekend, I enlisted my number-crunching colleague Charlotta Mellander to look at what other factors might be related to such serial marriage. We looked at unemployment, the class composition of the workforce, immigration, gay population, religion, and levels of psychological well-being. Our analysis points to associations and not causal relationships. It shows that a relationship exists, but not that one causes the other.

Class: Serial marriage was less likely in states with high creative class concentrations (a correlation coefficient of -.59). Conversely, it was was much more likely in working class states (.63). The effect of class was about the same as for income (-.58) and human capital (-.65). When we controlled for income, the association between class and marriage remained significant (-.33 for the creative class and .39 for the working class). Class appears to have a relationship to multiple marriage which is distinct from income.

Immigrants, Gays, and Bohemians: Multiple marriage was significantly less likely in states with high immigrant concentrations (-.38), though the association was less than for class. Bohemians: Multiple marriage was also less likely in states with high bohemian concentrations (-.49). So much for the libertine bohemian lifestyle – at least when it comes to multiple marriage that is. There was no correlation between multiple marriage and the share of the gay population.

Religion: The Pew study did not a strong correlation between religion -  measured as the percentage of people who said religion was “very important” in their lives – and marriage or divorce patterns. Our association suggests at least a moderate one. Religion was positively associated with multiple marriage (.43). Multiple marriage was more likely in more religious states

Well-Being: Multiple marriage was less likely in states with high levels of psychological well-being (-.37).

4 Responses to “The Larry King Effect”

  1. Wendy Says:

    I wonder what the numbers would look like if you could include common-law relationships and legal marriages. Just because someone has only been legally married once, doesn’t mean he or she has not lived in a marriage-like setting with several different people (at different times). It makes sense to me that there is an association between religion and more marriages in a lifetime because the option of just living together may not really be there.

    Common law might also correlate to education levels and creative class membership. Would be interesting if one could find out, but I suspect a lot of common law relationships are not counted as such (for tax reasons if nothing else).

  2. Stephanie Says:

    Have you compared those statistics with Republican and Democrat states? Do people re-marry along party lines?

  3. Mike L. Says:

    Do we assume that these percents are “percents of all married”? Then we would expect Florida to be high (as it is) because of the older population with more opportunity to be married many times. It looks like the study needs to control for age. What do you think, RF ?

  4. Brian Coleman Says:

    Are there statistics on whether the cause of multiple marriages is divorce or death of a spouse? I am currently in a third marriage – the first ended in a divorce but the second was ended by ovarian cancer of my wife (ie not by choice).