Has your marriage lasted 50 years? Congratulations, you’re old

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.


Filed under In the news

17 responses to “Has your marriage lasted 50 years? Congratulations, you’re old

  1. Karen Guzzo

    Keep an eye out for an NCFMR profile on this soon! It looks just at those 65+.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris W

    Perhaps more troubling is that the article perpetuates the simplistic idea that long-lasting marriages can be explained by the personal, interpersonal, and cultural characteristics of individuals. Even worse is that the article presents lifelong marriage as the preferred, ideal, and morally correct form of personal life that everyone aspires to. Such a view contributes to the stigmatization and marginalization of serially married and cohabiting men and women as well as other people whose personal lives deviate from this traditional relational norm.


    • Ron Johnson

      more troubling is that the article perpetuates the simplistic idea …

      Blah blah blah. It’s Valentine’s Day. Pull the stick out of your Social Justice arse for a day.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sheilaugh

      The revised graph still leaves out everyone who remarried, even though they’re very much relevant when discussing the odds of death and divorce.

      Instead of people whose *most recent* marriage was 50+ years ago, the denominator should be people whose *first* marriage was 50+ years ago.


  3. Ron Johnson

    But that 7% figure has nothing to do with it, because it includes people who got married yesterday!

    IOW, these highly educated academicians who are supposed to know statistics failed epicly?


  4. Ron Johnson

    A better question to ask is: how many people age 68 and older have been married for 50+ years.


  5. K. Zuther

    Ron’s much better question to be asked: How many people age 68 and older have been married for 50 + years, gives the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.


    • However, very few are still married. Back in the early sixties and during the fifties, people back then tended to marry right out of high school to the first person they ever dated or married while in college. Being past 25 ad not being married was comparatively rare. Most of you were not alive then. The fact is divorces were rife in people who married very young.


  6. Steve Jones

    We were married in 1967, and celebrate are 50th last year. My parents were married for 60 years, and my wife’s parents were married for 65 years. We all took the oath “to death do US part” SERIOUSLY


  7. George Pacheco

    We were married in 1969. I guess a more meaningful statistic would be to know what percent of marriages that took place in 1969 are still married and will hit 50 years next year.


  8. Rev.Tinsley and Nancy Stetson

    We are so excited…married 12.27.69…will 50 years!! We cannot believe it. Been quite a journey…amazing!! Fun, silly, just grand!! Sure ups and downs but we are making it!!


  9. David and Marilyn Hitchcock

    We were 19 and 16 when we met, and dated for the next 2 years. We were engaged for 1 year more and married in 1965. We are 76 and 73 now, but 1 lifetime together shall not have been enough. Simply put, we have loved each through joy and adversity, and have not forgotten our vows before God and man to see it all the way through. Our marriage just gets better and better!


  10. Pingback: Striking Gold – Wiseblooding

  11. Lee Roy Hanzel

    We met on Jan 22 1956–married Jan 29 1956. I was 21 , she was 19. Now I am 85, she is 83. We will celebrate our 64th on the 29th. Lee Roy / Juanita


  12. My wife and I have been married over 51 year after January 4,2020 (51 yrs) or 1.6 Billion Seconds (real number no joke). We have a few examples how we made it over 51 years to share.
    Only 7% of America couples made it to 50 yrs. If more couples could made it closer to 50 yrs, 30 or 40 yrs would help America a lot. An average of 20% to 35% would change our USA in many good ways. 😄


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