More Marriage, More Babies? Apparently Not.

More Marriage, More Babies? Apparently Not.

In today's update, we have a piece from from the sociologist Philip N. Cohen critiquing the marriage-and-inequality study I wrote about earlier this week. I noticed something odd in one of Cohen's graphs: Italy, Greece, and Japan -- famously low-fertility countries -- have incredibly high marriage rates.

So, I grabbed some numbers from the OECD -- the organization's estimated total fertility rate for the years 2010-2015, and its estimate of the percentage of adults who were married as of 2012 -- and plotted the two against each other:

The relationship isn't even close to being statistically significant (even when I exclude all the outliers flagged by the stats program R's "influence measures" tests), but it's slightly negative. I'm not sure what, if anything, to make of this, but I find it fascinating that two phenomena as tightly bound to each other as marriage and childbearing aren't correlated with each other internationally, and I can't find a whole lot else that's been written about it. (This paper, worth looking over, notes that "from a cross sectional view the marriage rate is no longer positively correlated to fertility.")

Spreadsheet here.

[Update: The demographer Conor F. McGovern notes that the percentage of adults who are married can be thrown off by various factors (such as men tending to die younger in Russia), and that total fertility is still correlated with other marriage-related variables, such as age at first marriage.]

Robert VerBruggen is editor of RealClearPolicy. Twitter: @RAVerBruggen

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