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08.08.10

15 Signs You'll Get Married

Your chances of tying the knot one day depend on what state you live in, how smart you are, and whether you were an overweight child. Anneli Rufus on how to predict your marriage odds.

1. If you live in the U.S., your chances of getting married before reaching age 40 are 86 percent if you're a woman, 81 percent if you're a man.

But the probability of marrying before turning 18 is only 6 percent for women and 2 percent for men. Passing years increase the odds, which rise by age 30 to 74 percent for women and 61 percent for men.

Paula Goodwin, et al. (2009): Who Marries and When? Age at First Marriage in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Health Statistics, Data Brief 19.


2. If you have a high IQ, you're 29 percent more likely to get married than a person with a low IQ.

"This isn't surprising," says Seattle Pacific University psychology professor Les Parrott, the author of Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. "Marriage is a smart choice. Why? Because mountains of research show that married people make more money, have fewer health problems, enjoy life more, and even live longer than those who are not married. You don't have to be Einstein to figure out that marriage—when done right—has countless advantages."

Richard J. Herrnstein and Murray, Charles A. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. New York: Free Press, 1994, p. 172.


3. If you're divorced, there's a 75 percent chance that you'll remarry.

"A person who has been through a divorce can often be eager to jump back into matrimony in order to 'right the wrong' or for more pragmatic reasons—e.g., finances or parenting," Parrott says. "They also tend to believe that they've learned what to do differently, avoiding mistakes that they may have made in the first marriage. Unfortunately, research shows that the divorce rate for second marriages is even higher than it is for first marriages."

Larry Bumpass et al. (1990): Changing Patterns of Remarriage in the U.S. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52 (3), 747-756.


4. If you live in Nebraska, you're 30 percent more likely to get married than if you live in Washington, D.C.

The capital is home to our nation's lowest marriage rate. At 24.9 percent, it's less than half the rates of 42 other states, including Idaho (57.3), Minnesota (54.1), West Virginia (55.1), and Nebraska (54.9). California has the second lowest, at 47.8 percent. Proof, perhaps, that politics are more of a turnoff than earthquakes.

Rose Kreider and Simmons, Tavia (2003): Marital Status: 2000: Census Brief


5. If you're a woman who was not overweight as an adolescent, you're 20 percent more likely to get married than a woman who was overweight as an adolescent.

And if you're a man who wasn't overweight as a kid, you're 11 percent more likely to get married than men who were. "One of the factors that increase the probability of bonding is confidence," says clinical psychologist Guy Grenier, adjunct professor of human sexuality at the University of Western Ontario. "One's degree of confidence might be compromised early in one's social trajectory if one felt ostracized or judged based on one's appearance."

Steven Gortmaker et al. (1993): Social and Economic Consequences of Overweight in Adolescence and Young Adulthood. New England Journal of Medicine, 329, 1008-1012. 


6. If you're a white woman who isn't poor, you're 550 percent more likely to get married by age 35 than a poor African-American woman is.

According to a CDC report, 20 percent of poor white women and 33 percent of poor white men haven't married by age 35, compared to 10 percent of nonpoor white women and 25 percent of nonpoor white men. Some 55 percent of poor African-American women and 48 percent of poor African-American men haven't married by age 35, compared to 35 percent of nonpoor African-American women and 25 percent of nonpoor African-American men. The CDC report defines "not poor" as earning at least $22,000 a year, which amounts to being at least 200 percent above the official poverty threshold.

Paula Goodwin, et al. (2009): Who Marries and When? Age at First Marriage in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Health Statistics, Data Brief 19. 


7. If you've never received a bone-marrow transplant, you're 14 percent more likely to marry than someone who has received a bone-marrow transplant.

As revealed in study after study, including several involving childhood cancers, a history of serious illness works against your marital odds. Though it doesn't seem fair, potential mates are scared off by the idea of decreased fertility, impaired immunity, and a shorter life span.

Smita Bhatia, et al. (2007): Late mortality after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation and functional status of long-term survivors: report from the Bone Marrow Transplant Survivor Study. Blood Journal, 110 (10), 3784-3792.


8. If you're a woman who lived with both of your biological or adoptive parents at age 14, you're 12 percent more likely to marry than women who didn't live with both parents at age 14.

According to the CDC, those who didn't live with both their folks at 14 are 6 percent more likely to cohabit: that is, live with partners while unmarried. "Children of divorced parents typically have one of two attitudes toward marriage: Delay it because they’ve witnessed the pain that comes from doing it poorly, or dive into it because they feel—rightly or wrongly—that they’ve learned what not to do in a marriage relationship," says Parrott. "Unfortunately, the divorce rate does not favor their odds any more than others who marry."

P.Y. Goodwin et al. (2010): Marriage and cohabitation in the United States: A statistical portrait based on Cycle 6. National Survey of Family Growth, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Vital and Health Statistics, 23 (28).


9. If you're a Caucasian male who has been incarcerated, there's a 95.1 percent chance that you'll get married by age 40.

Behind bars, one becomes all too aware of what one is missing. Perhaps this is why, upon release, so many ex-cons tie the knot. But brides be warned: "Ex-inmates are more likely to assault their partners than other men," writes the author of the study that yielded this stat, "but this likelihood is reduced if they develop strong and long-lasting relationships."

Bruce Western (2004): Incarceration, marriage, and family life. Princeton University/Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Working paper 15-19-FF


10. If you're a born-again Christian, you're 19 percent more likely to get married than an atheist is.

According to research conducted by the evangelically oriented Barna research group, born-agains have an 84 percent chance of getting married, while followers of non-Christian faiths have a 74 percent chance and atheists and agnostics have a 65 percent chance.

The Barna Group, " Divorce Among Adults Who Have Been Married," 2008.


11. If you're a college graduate, you're 9 to 14 percent more likely to get married than someone who never finished high school.

"The more educated you are, the more time you've spent in a setting where you're more likely to meet people," says Grenier, who is the author of T he 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married (And How to Have Them). "Being in school is all about sitting in rooms all day with people your age who are doing the same things you're doing and mainly want the same things."

P.Y. Goodwin et al. (2010): Marriage and cohabitation in the United States: A statistical portrait based on Cycle 6. National Survey of Family Growth, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Vital and Health Statistics, 23 (28).


12. If you're a woman without a male twin, you're 15 percent more likely to get married than women with male twins.

"In mammals, including humans, female fetuses that are exposed to testosterone from adjacent male fetuses in utero can have masculinized anatomy and behavior," write the authors of the study that yielded this stat. And: "Studies in humans and other mammals show that the more feminine females are preferred as mates by males, and direct evidence from laboratory animals confirms that intrauterine position can affect female attractiveness to males."

Virpi Lummaa et al. (2007): Male Twins Reduce Fitness of Female Co-Twins in Humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104 (26), 10915-10920.


13. If you're living with a lover for the first time, there's a 65 percent chance that you'll be married within five years.

Some 73 percent of white people's first cohabitations lead to marriage within five years, compared with 40 percent or less for Hispanic and African-American people's first cohabitations, according to this CDC study. The first cohabitations for men and women with college degrees are 34 and 27 percent more likely, respectively, to lead to marriage than the first cohabitations of those lacking high-school diplomas or GEDs.

P.Y. Goodwin et al. (2010): Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States: A Statistical Portrait Based on Cycle 6. National Survey of Family Growth, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Vital and Health Statistics, 23 (28).


14. If you're a conscientious man, you're at least 50 percent more likely to get married than men who aren't conscientious.

The researchers who conducted the study that yielded this figure define conscientiousness as "the degree to which a person is willing to comply with conventional rules and norms." Conscientious people, they explain, "place a high value on order" and are "self-disciplined."

Shelly Lundberg (2010): Personality and Marital Surplus. Institute for the Study of Labor Discussion Paper 4595.


15. If you're a single woman serving in the U.S. military, you're more than 200 percent more likely to get married than single civilian women are.

"One of the biggest factors in mating is propinquity: that is, being around those with whom you could potentially mate," says Grenier. "If you want to meet women, go to playgroups. If you want to meet men, join the service."

Emily Hull (2007): Military Service and Marriage: A Review of Research. Brigham Young University/National Healthy Marriage Resource Center.

Anneli Rufus is the author of many books, including Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto and the Nautilus Award-winning Stuck: Why We Don't (or Won't) Move On , and the coauthor of still more, including Weird Europe and The Scavengers' Manifesto.  In 2006, she won a Society of Professional Journalists award for criticism.