Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

What percentage was that again?

About a month ago, this front-page NYT article, trumpeting that in 2005 51% of women were living without a husband caused quite a stir. It’s a remarkable celebration of how liberating it is for women not to have to deal with husbands. (Tell that to the elderly widows in my church.)

Now we learn a little something about the editorial process that led to the article. Did you notice the age range under consideration? It’s 51% of women 15 and older. Roughly 90% of high-school age girls live at home with their parents. Subtracting them from the figures gets us back under 50%, and as the NYT’s public editor concedes, probably off the front page.

This was not news analysis, but advocacy, with almost no attempt at balancein either the presentation or the assessment of the evidence. Michael Medved cites census data about the normality of marriage.

Here’s the data from which the NYT reporter was working. Here’s some data that provide a somewhat different picture, suggesting (for example) that marriage is still the overwhelming statistical norm for most people.

Hat tip: MOJ’s Rob Vischer.

Update: As Kate comments below, I missed Peter’s original post here. Bad blogger!

Discussions - 5 Comments

Don’t trust anything or anyone who regards 16-year-old girls as "women."
Or who feels they have to use such a term.

Actually, we developed quite a thread
on the original NYT article when it came out. Some of it was even funny.

This is by way of a confession by me, because I went off on it and missed the 15 year old female thing, only to be reigned in by the timely mention of the Medved piece. The number of my students living with a "boyfriend" or a "girlfriend" while not married to them, sometimes even with children, as in "I live with the mother of my son" made the article seem credible to me. While the "ever divorced rate" of 21.9 - 24.2 percent of the population 15 yrs.(there they go, again) and older, in the US census data, is encouraging, that data would not reflect those non-contractual, semi-marital living arrangements.

Thank you for the update, Joe.

This is Anti-Journalism. It was specifically designed to leave the reader knowing less than when he began reading.

The times started with the number they wanted--51%--and worked backwards to make the facts fit.

Women who were included: married women whose husbands were stationed away in the military, working or living overseas, in the hospital or long term care, in jail, etc.

Also women who might have lost their husbands after 50 years of marriage, women who were getting married the next day, etc.

In all but one or two states, 15 yr.-olds can’t marry. Even 16 & 17 yr.-olds need parental consent.

But excluding all these girls & women would have prevented the reporters from reaching the magic 51%. The Times no longer has an editorial--it is an editorial page.

No, Joe. Good blogger. Your post brought out the point that the media can spin a statistical point to obscure truth. You brought us to the correction, which was better and more important than the original article, because there is more truth in it.


Noel, what journalist, being human, can be completely objective? In anything we read, we have to presume that perspective puts a certain angle on the topic, and mentally adjust for that. I read nostalgia for some good old day when reporters were objective in what they wrote, and think it is silly. To be as objective as possible is a very good thing in a journalist, but is as much as anyone could ask. Subjectivity is human.


But you ARE right, that this particular piece seemed designed to slap the reader between the eyes with the shock of the thing and the shock value was false. However, could any of us look at American marriage as it is and say it is in a very good place? Are male/female relations in a very good state today? As Peter put it in the first post, "things have only become more difficult, more complicated, more bizarre over the years. What will happen?"

God help us, let’s pray we don’t end up like the Japanese! The young women are living with their parents and wallowing in mass consumption. Marriage is the end of their freedom, so they shun it. The young men are buying inflatable dolls (and making occasional trips to Thailand). They insist on marriage and patriarchy...anything less is a severe loss of face, the very worst fate in the august world of Japanese male-dom. And that race is dying, quite literally. People are so short-sighted.

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