Just kidding: Congratulations, you’re old and have had a long marriage.
The Washington Post magazine has a feature out today called “The secret to a long-lasting marriage.” I don’t have a general comment on it, because I only made it to the third paragraph, and it’s probably worth reading.
But the third paragraph is funny:
They have beaten the odds of death and divorce: Of all current U.S. marriages, only 7 percent have reached the 50-year mark, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University.
It is certainly true that making it to the 50-year mark of marriage means you have beaten the odds of death and divorce. But that 7% figure has nothing to do with it, because it includes people who got married yesterday!
Here is the breakdown of when people got married, among people married right now (in the 2014 American Community Survey, which has to be the source for that statistic):
So the statistic is correct: only 7% of currently married people have been married for 50 years or more. Good for them! To bad for all those other people they were born so recently.
It’s all in the denominator. Sure, 50-year marrieds are rare, but compared to what?
With the ACS we can answer a more relevant question, which is this: among living people whose most recent marriage was 50 years ago or more, what is their current marital status? This is a little more encouraging: half are still married.
So let’s restate the original congratulatory message like this:
They have beaten the odds of death and divorce: Of all people who tied the knot 50 or more years ago, and who haven’t yet died, only 50% percent have made it this far without divorcing or becoming widowed, according to the American Community Survey.
Many happy returns.