Most and Least Marriage-Indifferent States

cohabitation map
The ten states with the highest portion of coupled households headed by unmarried opposite-sex partners are:

  1. Alaska, 11.6%
  2. Nevada, 11.5%
  3. Vermont, 11.2%
  4. Maine, 11.1%
  5. New Mexico, 10.1%
  6. New Hampshire, 10.1%
  7. Oregon, 9.7%
  8. Arizona, 9.6%
  9. Delaware, 9.6%
  10. Rhode Island, 9.4%

The states with the lowest indifference between marriage and cohabitation are:

  1. Utah, 4.4%
  2. Alabama, 5.2%
  3. Arkansas, 6.0%
  4. Oklahoma, 6.2%
  5. Kansas, 6.3%
  6. Texas, 6.6%
  7. Tennessee, 6.6%
  8. Kentucky, 6.9%
  9. Idaho, 6.9%
  10. Nebraska, 7.0%

The ten states with the largest portion of illegitimate births of those children born to white non-hispanic mothers* are:

  1. West Virginia, 35.2%
  2. Maine, 35.0%
  3. Indiana, 33.6%
  4. Vermont, 32.4%
  5. Florida, 31.5%
  6. Ohio, 31.3%
  7. Oklahoma, 31.3%
  8. Delaware, 30.3%
  9. Missouri, 30.2%
  10. Nevada, 30.0%

The states with the lowest indifference to bearing children within marriage are:

  1. Utah, 12.6%
  2. New Jersey, 14.5%
  3. Colorado, 18.3%
  4. Connecticut, 18.6%
  5. Idaho, 19.5%
  6. Virginia, 20.6%
  7. Alabama, 20.9%
  8. California, 21.3%
  9. New York, 21.3%
  10. Massachusetts, 21.8%

The four states on both top ten lists: Nevada, Vermont, Maine, Delaware.
The three states on both bottom ten lists: Utah, Idaho, Alabama.
The oddball state with low cohabitation and high illegitimacy: Oklahoma.

*Data for births to white non-hispanic women were used rather than births to mothers of all races because the rates of illegitimate birth are very different for the different racial and ethnic groups; looking at differences of rates of illegitimacy for all groups together mainly shows nothing more than that states with low minority populations have low illegitmacy rates.

Data sources:

Married-Couple and Unmarried-Partner Households: 2000;

Births: Final Data for 2005

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About John Mansfield

Mansfield in the desertA third-generation southern Nevadan, I have lived in exile most of my life in such places as Los Alamos, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the western suburbs of Detroit, and currently the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. I work as a fluid dynamics engineer. I was baptized at age twelve in the font of the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake Center, and on my nineteenth birthday I received the endowment in the St. George Temple. I served as a missionary mostly in the Patagonia of Argentina from 1985 to 1987. My true calling in the Church seems to be working with Cub Scouts, whom I have served in different capacities in four states most years since 1992. (My oldest boy turned eight in 2004.) I also currently teach Sunday School to the thirteen-year-olds. I hold degrees from two universities named for men who died in the 1870s, the Brigham Young University and the Johns Hopkins University. My wife is Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, who comes from New Mexico's north central mountains and studied molecular biology at the same two schools I attended. We have four sons, whose care and admonition, along with care of my aged father, require much of Elizabeth's time. She currently serves the Church as Mia-Maid advisor, ward music chairman, and choir director, and plays violin whenever she can. One day, I would like to make shoes.

8 thoughts on “Most and Least Marriage-Indifferent States

  1. John M, welcome back. This is a great contribution to the discussion. It seems like the Saints are still doing well — comparatively.

  2. John,

    Can you explain what you mean by “marriage indifference?” I am not familiar with that term. It will help me understand these graphs better.

    One note, I think it is wonderful to see California, New York, and Massachusetts doing so well with families.

  3. Dan, by marriage indifference I mean a sense that cohabitation is an acceptable alternative to marriage and that children don’t particularly need to be born within marriage.

    Like you, I am glad the children of California, New York, and Massachusetts are being born to married parents. I suspect that expensive living in those states deters some from the financial harm of illegitimate children.

  4. Thanks John. So what I get from the numbers is that left-leaning states like California, New York and Massachusetts don’t really have that big of a problem with families. And like you say, they are fairly wealthier than say Mississippi. I’m actually a little surprised that Mississippi isn’t in the top ten, but there are other poor states in the top ten illegitimate children.

    I pointed out New York, Massachusetts and California because they are strongly liberal states. I’ve heard from numerous conservatives over the years that liberalism is anti-family, blah blah blah, you know all that stuff. It’s funny, though, that when looking at the numbers, it is the liberal leaning states that fare better in terms of family than otherwise. Or at least are on par.

  5. What led me to look up this data is the number of pro-homosexual marriage commenters who write something like “Why are you worried about gay marriage? Aren’t poor heterosexual marriages a bigger problem?” I hate this common type of argument which is really saying “I want you to quit talking about this matter because your opinion is different than mine.” Ignoring the stifling aspect of the question, though, there is a point; heterosexuals outnumber homosexuals by a couple orders of magnitude, so how they treat marriage is far more important than what homosexuals may or may not do. And really the homosexual marriage debate is mainly between heterosexuals using this matter as a token of the way they think the world ought to be.

    What I suspected is that they states most sympathetic in law to homosexuals would generally be the ones that are the most indifferent to marriage. I think that holds up in general strokes; see the seven states that are on both top or bottom ten lists. The picture is not so clear cut, though. California, New York, and Massachusetts have been mentioned. Also, the libertarian libertines in Nevada and Alaska have passed constitutional amendments enshrining heterosexual marriage, and those states have no civil unions.

  6. Another observation: Utah’s position at the top of both of my bottom ten lists really sets it apart. We can attribute that to the large LDS population of the state, but kept in mind that about a third of Utahns are not Latter-day Saints. If the marital indifference of non-LDS Utahns were the same as that of people in other Western states, then Utah wouldn’t be sitting in both #1 positions. So, why is the marital indifference of non-LDS Utahns low? My answer: community plays a role in the attitudes we develop. In other words, enough of “I was married on Planet Krypton. Puny Earth gravity doesn’t affect my family.”

  7. Before we get too giddy about the low percentage of out-of-wedlock births in New York, California and Massachusetts, we should probably look at abortion rates in those states. It would also be useful (although I don’t know how to obtain this kind of data), to look at availability/use of contraceptives.

    The relatively high rates of cohabitation in those states suggests that there’s something other than premarital chastity that’s keeping out-of-wedlock births down.

  8. Massachusetts’ abortion rate (18 per 1,000 women 15- to 44-years old) is slightly higher than the national average (16). California and New York, however, rank first and second at 39 and 30 abortions annually per 1,000 women. Third place Delaware has a rate of 21 abortions per 1,000 women, so California and New York are in a class by themselves. California gets credit for more than a quarter of all U.S. abortions. So, those states, with so much to answer for, have no credibility as models of sexual responsibility.

    That said, they do have low portions of out-of-wedlock births, so they do recognize, in their twisted way, the desirability that children be born to married parents. Either that, or maybe in states with higher illegitimacy rates and lower abortion rates, the residents are not as calloused about aborting those who would be born into adverse circumstances.

    Abortion data
    California abortion rate

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