The place where you grow up doesn’t affect only your future income, as we wrote about last week. It also affects your odds of marrying, a large new data set shows.
The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado.
These conclusions — based on an Upshot analysis of data compiled by a team of Harvard economists studying upward mobility, housing and tax policy — are not simply observations about correlation. The economists instead believe that they have identified a causal role that geography plays in people’s lives. The data, which covers more than five million people who moved as children in the 1980s and 1990s, suggests that children who move from, say, Idaho to Chicago really do become less likely to marry, even if the numbers can’t explain exactly why these patterns exist.
How can the researchers think they’re capturing a causal effect here — in which a child who moves to New York actually becomes less likely to marry? Because they have studied more than five million people who moved as children during the 1980s and 1990s. Those who moved to New York, among other places, were indeed less likely to marry than otherwise similar people who grew up elsewhere. And the younger that children were when they moved to New York, the less likely they were to marry.