California may have a free-love reputation, but when it comes to tying the knot, we aren’t the remarrying kind.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported this month that about a quarter of all the Americans who had ever wed were on at least their second marriages. That’s an all-time high, and it’s not because marriages overall are less stable.
In fact, the nation’s divorce rate has been falling since the 1980s. But, as usual, one big demographic is doing its own thing.
That’s not a bad thing; married people live longer, and love truly can be lovelier the second time around, as the song goes.
What was most interesting about the report, though, were the geographical differences in remarriage from one state, and even one city, to another.
Arkansas, for example, turns out to be the nation’s capital of second and third spouses. Whether it’s because folks marry younger there, or because higher divorce rates correlate with lower levels of wealth and education, about 35 percent of Arkansans who had ever married had made multiple trips to the altar, or county clerk.
New Jersey, on the other hand? Fuhgeddaboudit. The rate was just 16 percent there. The Northeast in general had lower rates of remarriage, while the South posted more Scarlett O’Hara-like numbers.
California’s rates were generally more in line with New York and Massachusetts. Remarried people represent only about 21 percent of Californians who have ever wed, the report found. Indeed, California’s was the lowest rate in the West. (Yes, including Texas.)
Within California, the wealthier and younger cities posted super-low remarriage rates: San Jose (15.5 percent), Los Angeles (about 17 percent), San Francisco (18.6 percent for men, 17.7 percent for women).
Most of the Central Valley – Bakersfield, Fresno, Hanford, Merced, Modesto – had rates below the national average. Sacramento’s rates were only slightly higher, at about 26 percent.
But the wedding bells apparently ring overtime in Redding, where 34.7 percent of ever-married men and 36.4 percent of ever-married women are on their second or third spouses. And in Chico. And in San Luis Obispo.
Is there something in what’s left of the water in those places? Or are they just richer in “gray divorcees” than the rest of the state?
As noted above, lots of factors go into a place’s marriage and divorce rates. And the numbers everywhere are being shifted by young people, who are marrying later. (The median age at first marriage, the report noted, is now 29 for men and 27 for women, two years higher than it was in the mid-1990s).
But there’s something romantic, either way, in what the numbers say about California.
Do you take this state, where love somehow manages to be both more steadfast and more prolific than average?
I do. Repeatedly.
BY THE NUMBERS
Percentage of ever-married Californians who’ve said “I do” more than once:
San Luis Obispo
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008-12 American Community Survey