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One Plus One Equals…You? The Worldwide Math of Marriage
By Heath Shive
“Love and marriage/ It’s an institute you can’t disparage.” - Frank Sinatra
In last week’s article, I talked about the rise of the singletons – or, single people who live alone.
Now let’s talk about the all-time champion of living arrangements – the married couple.
In a 2012 U.S. Census study, the number of single-person households was outmatched – however slightly – by one group, couples without children. These couples could be young and yet to have kids, or they could be older and their children have moved out.
Households with married people – with or without children – are the most common living arrangement in the country, totaling 56 million households in 2011!
Marriage itself is very common.
To the math!
The Math of Marriage
Helen Fisher is a biological anthropologist and considered an authority on the institution of marriage. She has examined marriage for all its psychological, sociological, and sexual worth.
Also, Helen Fisher is the author of the very well-received book, “Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray.” In Chapter 3 (entitled, “Is Monogamy Natural?”), Fisher has collected some very impressive numbers about marriage. Here are just a few.
But Not All Marriages Are Equal
What exactly do you mean by “marriage”?
As Fisher reports, a “whopping” 84% of all traditional societies permit a man to take more than one wife at once. That means only 16% of the 853 cultures on record actually prescribe monogyny (a man with only one wife).
Polyandry (a woman who takes more than one husband) is rare, but real. The Tlingit Indians of southern Alaska are one example. But, only 0.5% of all societies permit a woman to take more than one husband.
In China, a man could take only one wife legally, but he could have numerous concubines. And let’s not forget the notorious harems of the Middle Eastern and Berber sultans.
It is still a married person’s world!
By the numbers, most people really want to be married.
But do they want to be faithfully married?
Next week, we look at another (regrettable) aspect of marriage in the new article, “Your Cheating Heart: The Science of Adultery.”
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Fisher, Helen. Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray. Rev. Ed. W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.
Vespa, Jonathon, Jamie M. Lewis, and Rose M. Kreider. United States, U.S. Census Bureau. America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2012. Issued August 2013.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.