The Larry King Effect

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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). 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 find 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 analysis 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).


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Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here
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