September 14, 2011
Census Can’t Count!
The Census just conducted its
2010 count of Americans I hope Census workers did a better job
than Census did in estimating the nation’s marriages and
divorces in a new report, “Marital Events of Americans: 2009.”
This study was needed because
six states think divorce is so unimportant that they do not
bother to count the number of divorces each year: California,
Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Georgia and Minnesota. Leaders of
those states should be ashamed.
Furthermore, the National
Center for Health Statistics has discontinued collecting
marriage and divorce data, which has been gathered for decades
from states based on marriage licenses granted and divorce
Why? “County level data was
not complete. We do not have data based on licensed, actual
records in some states. In some states data was sampled,” says
Stephanie Ventura of NCHS. Accurate marriage data was coming
only from 42 states; and complete divorce data from only 31
This is shocking. Therefore
the Census Bureau added questions to its American Community
Survey (ACS), a huge sample of 2.2 million households. Beginning
in 2007, people were asked if they married, divorced or were
widowed in the past year.
However, the results strike me
as very odd.
For the first time
since 1990, we know how many divorces there were in California.
Census reports in 2008, there were an estimated 119,300 men who
divorced in California and 145,300 women who divorced. That
compares with 225,900 men who married in that year and 259,200
That’s a state
divorce rate of 48.8%, which is surprisingly below the US
average of 54.6% according to Census.
However, how could
there be more men getting married than women?
How could there be
more women getting divorced than men?
Is this something
peculiar to California? No.
reports that in 2009, 2,286,000 men married 2,208,000 women! So
there were 78,000 more men getting married than women!
How absurd. This
data refers to only to heterosexual marriages. Did 78,000 women
forget that they got married.
Not likely. A
marriage is the most important event in the life of a woman, or
a man. The only experience of equal importance is a divorce.
Yet Census is
claiming that 1,178,000 men divorced in 2009 and 1,309,000
Again, how could
131,000 more women get divorced than men?
The ACS report
states: “Variation in rates between men and women can be
attributed to gender differences in marriage. Women tend to live
longer than men. Men also remarry more than women do, so men’s
marriage rates were higher than women’s.
are silly. So what if women live longer than men? The issue is
how many married in one year. While men marry more than women,
that is over a lifetime. In a single year, not one man in 10,000
would marry twice.
In an interview,
Diana Elliott, a co-author, explained, “Men tend to underreport
their divorces. They are also harder to find.” That is a
somewhat plausible explanation. Some divorced men disappear on
to the streets, in liquor-fed depression. But that does not
happen to a tenth of men who divorce.
why, in 2007, there were 100,000 more men who married than
women: “Men have higher remarriage rates than women.” Yes, but
not in a single year.
puzzling to me is that Gallup can predict with remarkable
accuracy who will win the Presidency by interviewing only 1,000
people. The ACS sample was 2.2 million households, 2,200
times the Gallup sample! It should report almost exactly the
same number of men as women who marry or divorce.
elementary. Men marry women in equal numbers in one year. Equal
numbers of both genders divorce in a single year.
“It is definitely
weird,” said one national marriage expert who didn’t want to be
quoted by name.
More than that, it
is tragic. In part due to sloppy local and state
record-keeping, and due to almost laughable Census data, we will
never know how many are marrying or divorcing with confidence.
Census appears to
be embarrassed by its own data.
“Marital Events of
Americans: 2009” does not even contain state-by-state numbers of
marriages and divorces. Instead, it gives marriage or divorce
rates such as 19.1 marriages per 1,000 men in California and
17.5 marriages per 1,000 women.
Earlier in this
column, I gave actual numbers by Census for California, but they
were for 2008 in an earlier report. Apparently, the agency was
criticized for data lacking credibility.
count. To cover that up, we are no longer given actual numbers
in a 24-page report.
It is a sad, shabby story.