Serial Marriages – Highest Rate in the South

The Pew Research Center, using U.S. Census Bureau data from the 2008 American Community Survey, reports that five percent of all Americans were in serial marriages in 2008. The Pew report, “The States of Marriage and Divorce,” presents data on the marriage status of Americans in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia.  It defines serial marriage as three or more marriages and includes an interactive map that gives state-by-state information on marriage and divorce in the United States.

According to Pew,“The states of California (4% men, 4% women), Massachusetts (2% men, 2% women), and New York (2% men, 2% women), as well as Pennsylvania (3% men, 3% women), Minnesota (3% men, 3% women), Wisconsin (3% men, 3% women), Illinois (4% men, 4% women), Hawaii (men 3%, women 3%) and the District of Columbia (men 3%, women 2%) have lower rates of serial marriage than the national average, which is 5% for both men and women. Michigan has an average rate of serial marriage (5% men, 5% women). All the southern states have rates of serial marriage higher than the national average, and the contiguous states of Arkansas (10% men, 10% women) and Oklahoma (10% men, 9% women) have the nation’s highest rates of serial marriage. All the other states that are contiguous to Arkansas have rates that exceed the national average: Tennessee (9% men, 8% women), Mississippi (8% men, 8% women), Louisiana (6% men, 6% women) and Texas (6% men, 6% women). Alabama, which borders Mississippi, has serial marriage rates of 8% men and 8% women.”

According to “Marry Young, Marry Often,” a post on Freakonomics, a blog on economics in everyday life, “Ten percent of Arkansans have been married three or more times, double the national average. That’s according to new data from the Pew Center. Arkansas also has one of the lowest median ages for first marriage: 26. If you’re looking for marital stability, look no further than New York State, where the “serial marriage” share is among the lowest in the country, at 2 percent (tied for last place with New Jersey and Massachusetts). (Would any divorce lawyers care to tell us why?) The median age for first marriage in New York is 30 for men (28 for women).”

Remember the classic country song: “All My Exs Live in Texas”? Well, George Strait was on to something. Looking at numbers, Texas is indeed home to more thrice-married adults than any other state, about 428,000 women and 373,000 men. But that’s partly because it’s home to so many people, period. Looking at rates, about 6% of Texans who ever have been married have wed three times or more. That is similar to the national average (5%), but well below the leaders in this category – the neighboring states of Arkansas and Oklahoma – where about 10% of all ever-married adults have had at least three spouses.

Meantime, back in New York and Massachusetts, just 2% of ever-married adults have been married at least three times, placing them at the bottom on this measure among the 50 states.

Allen Teal of Geomestic writes: “Serial marriages are not really a good idea. Entering into a marriage with the thought that if it does not work, I will just find someone else is just bad. Society is built on stable long-term marriage relationships. This is the best format for raising children and establishing an estate. Once this pattern is broken, it is hard to repair or replace. Unlucky at marriage either means that you are hard to satisfy, or you do not know how to pick an appropriate partner. Once is unlucky. Twice is a pattern. How many marriages are too many? The one that happens without proper thought and decision making beforehand, and the one that happens next after a bad marriage without good counseling.”

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