There are many predictors of the success of a marriage, among them the having of money, the having of children, and the length of time a couple spends dating before they tie the knot. Another big predictor, though, is age: The closer a couple is when it comes to their respective birth years, the greater their chances of avoiding divorce.
That's according to a study that compiled polling data from more than 3,000 recently married and divorced Americans. The study—the overall findings of which my colleague Olga Khazan highlighted last month—used a multivariate model to calculate the factors that seemed to best predict the marriage's chances of success. (Or, at any rate, its chances of not ending in divorce.) Its results were visualized by the data scientist Randy Olson, who created a series of charts to illustrate the study's findings.
Today, Olson released another set of visuals—the most intriguing of which focuses on the matter of the age gap. A one-year discrepancy in a couple's ages, the study found, makes them 3 percent more likely to divorce (when compared to their same-aged counterparts); a 5-year difference, however, makes them 18 percent more likely to split up. And a 10-year difference makes them 39 percent more likely.
Once you enter large-gap territory—the 20-year difference, the 30-year difference—the odds of divorce are ... almost never in your favor.
If your partner happens to be 15 years older or younger than you are, that's not automatically a bad omen: Statistics, of course, are not destiny. But, as predictors, the study's findings stand to reason. Marriage is, above all, about 50-50 partnership; differences in ages also mean differences in life experience and cultural reference points. Generations may be an invention, but they are meaningful nonetheless. So, with all the necessary caveats about love's vagaries and mysteries, if you want a marriage that lasts, you should probably try to marry someone your own age. Due apologies to Aaliyah.
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