Family Inequality marriage forecast contest

Enter to win: How many people will get married last year?


An outfit called Demographic Intelligence, which I’ve written about before, got USA Today to do a story on their new U.S. Wedding Forecast™.

Although there’s no sign of him on the website anymore, DI was founded by W. Bradford Wilcox, according to the Wayback Machine‘s archive. Now it is reportedly run by Samuel Sturgeon, who did a little work for the Heritage Foundation while working on his PhD on welfare and abortion policy with David Eggebeen at Penn State (who joined Mark Regnerus in a Supreme Court brief opposing marriage equality).

Anyway, the wedding forecast is available for sale only, and the formula is a secret (the ™ is for “trust me”). But they leaked some details to USA Today.

The company projects a 4% increase in the number of weddings since 2009, reaching 2.168 million this year; 2.189 million in 2014. Depending on the economic recovery, the report projects a continuing increase to 2.208 million in 2015. … From 2007 to 2009, the number of marriages each year fell from 2.197 million to 2.080 million. The report estimates that more than 175,000 weddings have been postponed or foregone since the recession began.

OK, so the projection for 2013 is 2.168 million. The story doesn’t say what DI forecasts for 2012 — which has already happened, although the official number hasn’t been released. But we should be cautious before buying wedding futures, because, according to USA Today: “This is the company’s first foray into wedding forecasts.”

Do it yourself™

I’ve made a forecast, but like DI-LLC™, I’m sealing it till the end of the contest. But I’ll give you a few data points so you can enter your predicted number of marriages in the U.S. in 2012. The person whose prediction, posted in the comments, is closest to the actual number reported on this page will win a free Family Inequality t-shirt, if I ever get around to making them. In the event of a tie, the prediction posted earliest wins.

Here is the trend from 2000 to 2011. Observe: long-run decline, recession-spike down, then rebound.


So, is the rebound just a little catching up from delayed marriage, or what? That’s the question. DI says 2,168,000 by 2013. Go marriage!

The USA Today story reports that DI’s forecast is “based on a variety of measures, including unemployment and consumer confidence.” I got some of that for you. I also added the number of women in the US ages 20-39 (who account for about 75% of marriages); these children of the Baby Boomers are a producing a little population bulge which could bring more marriages even at falling rates.

In what could be bad news for the DI forecast, however, I also checked the Google search trends for “wedding invitations,” “bridal shower,” and “wedding gifts.” These are the trends, shown in 3-week moving averages, with each normed so that 100% was the most popular week (the originals are here). See the big rebound continuing in 2012? Me neither. Click to enlarge:

google-marriage-trendsI annualized those numbers for each year 2004 to 2013, with a seasonal adjustment for the first 24 weeks of the year (don’t ask).

But are the Google numbers good for prediction? I used them to predict another down year for marriage in 2011. That wasn’t born out by the vital statistics numbers, which rebounded (as shown in the chart above). On the other hand, the numbers from the American Community Survey showed the decline continuing in to 2011, as reported by Pew. On the third hand, ACS shows continued decline in marriage rates (the difference is in the number of marriage-aged people). We don’t know enough about the difference between ACS and vital statistics to interpret this yet. Uncharted waters.

So, here are your numbers, with everything up to 2013 except the outcome: the number of marriages. Feel free to use these or anything else you like. Or just guess. Remember, Demographic Intelligence boasts of 99% accuracy, but except for 2009 you would have been at 97.5% or better just guessing no change — so you’re bound to be close. The contest is for 2012, but 2013 forecasts are welcome, too — better early than never. Click to enlarge:


To make it easier, I’ve uploaded the spreadsheet, with sources, here.

In marketing terminology, these variables are very hot leads. Here are the correlations between each variable and the number of marriages, for the years 2004-2011:


For other posts about prediction, see:

Good luck!

4 thoughts on “Family Inequality marriage forecast contest

Comments welcome (may be moderated)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s