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Econ Focus

Love, Money, and Marriage

There are many reasons why being married makes economic sense. But do they make promoting marriage suitable for public policy?
By Doug Campbell

The State of Marriage

If you're single and scouting for a mate, perhaps Utah is not the place to go. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 63 percent of the state's households are married-couple families, the highest percentage in the nation by a wide margin. Next up is Idaho, at 57.9 percent.

Fifth District states fall mostly in between: West Virginia is No. 12 with 52.5 percent of households being married-couple families; Virginia is No. 15 with 52.2 percent; North Carolina is No. 29 at 50.3 percent; South Carolina is No. 34 at 49.9 percent; and Maryland is No. 44 at 47.8 percent.

Dead last in the rankings is the District of Columbia at 21.8 percent. The District is probably an outlier because of the high number of young people who are drawn into the region for work in the various government-related offices. In addition, it is essentially a dense urban area, with the sort of social problems that many large cities face.

What accounts for variations in marriage rates across states? The Census attributes differences to "religious, cultural, and ethnic patterns to current social and economic circumstances." Also useful in understanding marriage rates is the ratio of unmarried men to unmarried women, an indication of the number of available men per women of the same age range and marital status. Nationally, the Census says, there are 86 unmarried men for every 100 unmarried women. The reason why there are more unmarried women, according to the Census, is because of women's longer life expectancy, though this ratio has improved since 1970, when women's life expectancy was about two years longer than men's compared with today.

Marital Status: 2000; Census brief

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