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Marrying when the time is right (or not)

Blender oddjob points to an article that shows more couples are delaying marriage, and outlines regional differences in co-habitation, education level, the biological clock and the statistical connection of single motherhood to poverty.

The findings are not surprising, nevertheless, it’s clear we are a patchwork of very different societies, based on where we live. The bible belt’s sanctimonious preaching rings hollow when you see the numbers.

A Census Bureau study being released Thursday found many regional differences in the marrying habits of Americans, with those near the East and West coasts generally waiting longer to get married than those in Middle America. The study also found that Southerners are the least likely to live together without getting married.

“Later marriage is very strongly associated with higher levels of education,” said David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University. “That’s why people in the Northeast have such a late age of marriage.”

The age when couples get married can also be influenced by religion and whether they are willing to live together without getting married, Popenoe said.

“It delays marriage,” Popenoe said of living together before marriage. “Men marry too late from the point of view of women, especially educated men. It leaves more women single, or marrying beyond the age of childbirth.”

…“Single parenthood and poverty are about as closely related as you can get,” Popenoe said. The states with the most unwed new mothers also tended to be the ones with the highest percentage of new mothers living in poverty.

Washington, D.C., had the highest percentage of new mothers who were unmarried, at 53.4 percent. The city also had the highest percentage of new mothers living in poverty, at 36.3 percent. West Virginia, Mississippi and Louisiana also had high percentages of unwed mothers living below the poverty line.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding