Anecdotally, you probably knew that where you grew up affects when you get married, or at least suspected it. But it's still interesting to see how the data lines up with other political and socioeconomic factors. Last week, The New York Times compiled data from Harvard economists into a series of maps and tables that consider how the county you grew up in affects how likely you are, compared to the national average, to get married before the age of 26. They found a clear partisan divide: people who spent their childhoods in liberal areas—especially urban, coastal, liberal areas—are about 10 percent less likely to get married before age 26 on average, while people from more conservative counties were notably more likely to tie the knot early.
Many people have pointed out that in a day and age when the national average age for a first marriage is older than 26 for both men and women (brides: 26.5 years and grooms: 28.7 in 2011) this data can't necessarily tell us whether blue county residents are less likely to ever get married or whether they've just not yet gotten to that point in their lives. It's a flaw that's impossible to fully account for with the current data, which covers more than five million people who moved as children in the 1980s and 1990s. The fringe participants allow scientists to confirm the trend up to age 30 with less accuracy, but the people in the study simply aren't old enough yet to look beyond that. That said, the Times posits that the trend will continue indefinitely: "Children who grow in New York, among other places, appear less likely to be married by 26, less likely to be married by 30, and probably less likely to marry at any point."
Counties around Washington D.C. (which has the single greatest negative effect), New York, and Los Angeles take the top five spots for residents being less likely to marry. But as strong as the city effect is, it can't compete with politics. An almost direct correlation appears between counties which voted Republican in the 2012 election and the likelihood that a person who grew up there will get married relatively young. And this relationship holds true even when you consider metropolitan counties that voted Republican, such as Phoenix, Ariz., Salt Lake City, Utah, and Fort Worth, Texas.
Of course, things aren't always so cut and dry, especially when we're talking about large swatches of the population. As you divide the data into economic tiers, new trends emerge. For example, in the Deep South, the propensity for residents to get married before 26 is only true for those from wealthier families. When the researchers looked at grown children from poorer Southern families, marriage was much less likely.
The data doesn't tell you much about a particular person, but it is an interesting lens through which to consider how cultural values and opportunities differ around the country.
[h/t New York Times]