…Or if you want to read 300 words confusing correlation and causation.
So the title may be nothing more than click-bait, but that’s exactly what I’ve felt like reading recent articles on the Atlantic and HuffPost on how divorce is being correlated with everything from the price of the engagement ring to how much you spent on your wedding.
While there has been some interesting data out lately on the factors correlated with lasting marriages (helpfully summarized in graph from here), once the popular press gets a hold of it, their articles seem designed to reduce happy couples to a science experiment.
Want a perfect marriage? Easy! Just locate one, divorce-resistant partner (who will be exactly your age and make more than $100,000 per year) and then follow a scientifically verified anti-divorce courtship ritual (date for three years while going to church regularly, get engaged after purchasing a ring for between $2,000 and $4,000, invite 200 plus people to your wedding but spend less than $1,000, and take a honeymoon). After that, the rest takes care of itself.
Conversely these articles leave those of us who didn’t follow the quadratic equation for marital bliss feeling insecure about our own nuptials. FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON AT ALL.
All I have to say is: post hoc ergo propter hoc is a logical fallacy no matter how much web traffic your article drives.
The Bright Side of Social Science
But that’s not to put a damper on all marriage and divorce research. Prof. Philip Cohen (@familyunequal) and his blog Family Inequality do an excellent job explaining the implications of social science research on marriage and the family. Take, for instance, this video on the socio-economic factors affecting divorce rates:
This research is an incredibly important tool for understanding who gets married, who stays married, and the increasingly class-based nature of marriage.
I also try to check in with Prof. Robert Hughes’s blog, Divorce Science, from time to time, for links to recent articles on marriage and divorce.
Heck, even the New York Times got it right this month, when it finally helped put an end to the 50-percent-divorce-rate-myth that I hear every time I tell someone what I do. So thanks for that.
But enough with the articles that treat happy marriages like math problems. I’m looking at you Huffpost.