Marriage, health and wealth – which is cause, which is effect?

Does anyone have data to say if this argument is the right way round?:

“Marriage is the greatest ‘program’ to end poverty, child abuse, child sexual abuse, school dropout, college failure, health problems, drug problems, depression, out-of-wedlock births to teenagers, reduce abortions, increase homeownership and savings…” – Ken Blackwell and Pat Fagan

They say that if people marry, they are less likely to encounters all these negative things. But is there anything to prove either that, or the opposite idea. The opposite will be:

“Child abusers, the kind of people who are school or college dropouts and/or won’t encourage their (future) children to stay in school, who are ill or prone to drug problems and depression, who have nothing to save, who will waste the money of a partner rather than manage it wisely, are less likely to find marriage partners, or stay married.”

In the first idea, marriage is the cause and safety, health and wealth the effect. The married could say singles have only themselves to blame for their bad luck – they could marry and have all the same good things married people do.

In the second one, safety, (physical and mental) health and wealth causes good marriage prospects. In the first picture, the woman in the poor, crime-ridden neighbourhood could simply marry instead of having her kids out of wedlock, and everything will be better. In the second, she may be worse of with her baby’s daddy, and it could be sensible to not marry him.

 

To marry or not to marry: For men.

 Marriage advocates tell us that married people are happier and healthier and wealthier. But they tend to forget that marriage is also the lead cause of divorce, and divorce make people less happy and less wealthy.

On the other hand, a growing number of marriage opponents tell men: Do not marry. Do not have children. Fool around, pick up women, use and dump them. Because in the Western world, divorce laws mean that women can and will walk out on you any time, leaving you without wife and kids and taking along most of your money. These tend to forget that many marriages are actually beneficial.

Statistically, which advice is most sound? Is it more beneficial for men to stay single, or to take the marriage gamble, which may leave you better off if you stay married, and worse if you divorce? By lack of better data, we will assume that the popular statistical myth is true: That half of American marriages end in divorce.*

Does getting married (having no idea if your marriage will work out or not) increase your chance of wealth?

Married men earn approximately 11 percent more per hour than men who have never been married, even after controlling for work experience, education, age and other factors. Economists also find that divorced or separated men make about 9 percent more than never-married men.

The person who marries is, on average (considering a 50% chance of divorce), likely to make 10% per hour more, compared to the one who never marry.

For people on the verge of retirement
* Married couples had accumulated $410,000

* Never married accumulated $167,000

* Divorced acccumulated $154,000

Since there are 2 people in a marriage, the $410,000 has to be divided by two for this calculation.

Married:Divorced:Never-Married have accumulated wealth 205:154:167 to each other.

The person who marries is, on average (considering a 50% chance of divorce), likely to retire with about $179 000** compared to the $167,000 of the one who never marry.

Another study of about 9,000 people found that divorce reduces a person’s wealth by about three-quarters (77 percent) compared to that of a single person, while being married almost doubles comparative wealth (93 percent.)

By that metric, the average divorcee has $23 for every $100 that the single, and $193 that the average married person has. (The same study also claims the average divorced man has about 2,5 times as much money as the average divorced woman, so he actually has $38,33 for every $100 that the single person has.)

The person who marries is, on average (considering a 50% chance of divorce), likely to have about  $115 dollar for every $100 of the one who never marry.

All in all, the person who marries is, on average, likely to end up with more than the one who never marry.

Does getting married (having no idea if your marriage will work out or not) increase or decrease the chance of happiness?

* 40 percent of the married said they are very happy with their life in general, compared to just 22 % of those who were single or who were cohabitating. The separated (15 percent very happy) and the divorced (18 percent very happy) were the least happy.

On the other end of the happiness scale, just 7 percent of married Americans say they are “not too happy” with life in general, compared to 13 percent of singles, and 18 percent of the divorced.

Married: Divorced: Never-Married have “very happy levels at rates 40:18:22 to each other. Married: Divorced: Never-Married have unhappiness levels at rates 7:18:13 to each other.

The average person who marry increase his chance of being very happy from 23% to 29%; and the average marrying person marginally decreases his/ her unhappiness chance from 13% to 12,5%.

Does getting married (having no idea if your marriage will work out or not) increase the risk that you will be so unhappy as to commit suicide?

Married men are only half as likely as bachelors and one-third as likely as divorced guys to take their own lives. Married: Divorced: Never-Married have divorce chances 1:3:2 to each other.

It averages out- the man with no idea if his marriage will end in divorce or not has roundabout the same chance of suicide as the one who stay single.

Does getting married (having no idea if your marriage will work out or not) increase your life expectancy?

The percentages living to age sixty five are 88 percent of married men versus 69 percent of widowed men, 65 percent of divorced men and 63 percent of never-married men.

The man who marries, wether he divorce or not, still has a higher life expectancy.

Conclusion:

For the average man, marriage is a worthy gamble, although not remarkably superior. But don’t be average. You can greatly increase your odds, and make your gamble a lot safer, by things like choosing your partner well, your ages at the time of marriage, your religious commitment, your education level and choosing a woman who’se parents stayed married, and by knowing the possible legal pitfalls and taking steps to avoid them. And if a man does not merit a women who fulfills several of the requirements (under “greatly increase your odds” and “choosing your partner well”), and he himself fulfills few of them? In that case, the doomsayers may be right, and it may be better for him to stay single.

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*This 50% is based on the amount of weddings in a year, and divorces that same year, and does not take into account the amount of already married people. The chances that a particular marriage will end in divorce is actually impossible to calculate.

 **A 50% chance of being in the $205,000 group, and a 50% chance of being in the $154,000 group, average out on that. All further calculations in this piece also average out between the married and divorced.

Vox Day is wrong about women (Part 1)

Blogger Vox Day, on his blog, tries to tell men what women are like and how to approach relationships. Leaving aside for a moment my theory that his view on women may be selection bias, let us examine the evidence: Is Vox objective, and likely to refer to accurate data, when discussing women? How correct is he on the topic? He:

A) Claims evidentially wrong things about male/ female relationships:

Vox claims #1) If you want to keep a relationship going, act like an alpha male. (Implied in most of his posts on game.)

Now, while it is a truism that some women fall, short term, for alphas, an alpha male statistically has a smaller chance of staying married. For every married alpha (40,9% of them are married) there are 0.54 divorced alphas. For every married man who had only 1-2 sexual partners* (73,8% of them are married) there are 0,037 divorced ones.

Acting like an alpha is great for the pick up artist, not for keeping a woman. An alpha’s marriage is, in fact, 14 times as likely to end in divorce. Vox is probably giving sound advice for the pick up artist on how to get short term relationships (one night stands), but atrocious advice to the married man.

Vox claims #2… it is a very risky and probably foolish endeavor for men to marry women over the age of 25.

Actually, partners over 25 are more statistically likely to give you a stable, lasting marriage. It is the younger partners that are most likely to sink a marriage. It is a very risky and probably foolish endeavor to marry if you or your partner is under 25, even more so if both of you are.
Vox evidentially does not always know what he talks about when giving advice on this topic.
(To be continued.)

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Note:

*This statistical source uses the word “alpha” in the same sense as Vox does, but not “beta”. Vox arranges men in at least 7 groups, of whom betas have more success with women than anyone except alphas and sigmas. This source use beta as the opposite of alpha.)

Scandinavia most atheistic? One more reason to doubt Zuckerman

Note, added later: While Zuckerman indeed compiled the list I refer to in “Atheistic countries have the most healthy societies”, and also wrote on his experiences in Sweden and Denmark, some of the conclusions atheists call his may be by his atheistic fans, not his own. The purpose of this blog entry is to discuss the conclusions that his fans say is his. I never made a study of whether his fans report his views accurately. So, if this post talk of doubting Zuckerman, it may rather be a reason to doubt his fans.

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“Theory without data is myth: data without theory is madness.” – Phil Zuckerman

Phil Zuckerman wrote a book about his experiences in Sweden and Denmark, painting it as probably the least religious countries in the world, yet with low crime rates, high standards of living and social equality. A previous post of mine questioned (very much) the accuracy of painting the Scandinivians as the world’s most atheistic countries, and (a bit) if their societies are really all that healthy, and sustainable. And is correlation (many people who don’t believe in God/gods/spirits, and a prosperous society) causality here?
A survey of the European commission collected these statistics of religious (un)belief in Europe. (I do not know what DK stand for.)

According to these, France (33%) has the most unbelievers (People who claim “I don’t belief there is any spirit, God, or life force”) of all European countries, with the Czech Republic (30%) second. (Would Zuckerman study the Czechs as an example of irreligious people next? Or perhaps the Cubans, who are, of course, not part of this European study?) Sweden is 6th and Denmark joint 9th.

In Iceland (11%), Finland, (16%) and Norway (17%), there are, in fact, a less than average unbeliever percentage for the countries surveyed – the European average was 18%. Even if there are a lot of unbelievers in Scandinavia, they are, by all statistics I ever read outside of Zuckerman’s work, a minority. Those who believe in God, a spirit or life force, still outnumber the unbelievers by at least 3 to 1.

And, since Prof. Zuckerman believe that statistics without theory is madness, I would follow it up by my theory: Denmark and Sweden are rather succesfull countries with more believers, albeit of very little if any commitment, than total unbelievers. It may even be that their Protestant heritage is partly responsible for their success. No country in Europe is an indicator of what a society of unbelievers will be like, since everywhere in Europe, believers in God, a spirit or life force outnumber unbelievers.

Atheistic countries have the most healthy societies?

Note, added later: While Zuckerman indeed compiled the list I refer to above, some of the conclusions atheists call his may be by his atheistic fans, not his own. The purpose of this blog entry is to discuss the conclusions that his fans say is his. I never made a study of whether his fans report his views accurately.

Thank you to my readers for pointing that out.

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The atheistic propoganda brigade is claiming it all the time: 

Atheistic countries have a very high level of societal health and success. Just look at Scandinavian countries like Denmark and Sweden, for example!

Their favorite source is Phil Zuckerman and this list (Table 1 on the web page) of his.  But let’s look closer at the list. (We don’t want to unquestioningly believe everything we hear, do we?)

If you look at the entry on top, Zuckerman claims that Sweden has 46-to 85% non-believers. If so, why put it above Vietnam, with 81% non-believers? Why not take the average and say “approximately 65,5%”  unbelievers? Why use the higher number? The same goes for Denmark, with (according to Zuckerman) between 43% and 80% unbelievers. (That in itself will change the top 5 unbelieving countries, even with Zuckerman’s numbers, to 1) Vietnam 2) Sweden 3)Japan  4)Denmark  5)Czech Republic.) It seems that Zuckerman’s statistics for Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland (each with about double as many unbelievers in Zuckerman’s high estimate than his low estimate) is very unreliable.

Okay. It seems Zuckerman has a rule of thumb: “When in doubt, use the highest estimate.” But is  this his rule of thumb? Not quite:

Several sources list the non-believers in China, North Korea, etc. higher* than those in Sweden, Denmark, etc. (For example, “Operation World’s 1993 handbook lists the non-religious in China at 59,1%, in North Korea at 68%, and in Cuba at 30,9%. They list the non-religious in Sweden as 34,9%, in Finland as 9,8%, in Denmark as 7,5%, and in Norway as 4% of the population.) (Another source, “The demand for Religion: Hard core atheism and Supply side theory” lists the amount of unbelievers –including those unbelievers who feel there “might be a God” and “might be a life after death” – in Norway as 16,9%- only a half to a quarter as many as Zuckerman suggests. In another peaceful, wealthy country, Austria, the page suggest that those “unbelievers” are only 8,3% – less than half, to less than a third, of what Zuckerman say. In Russia, however, the 30,8% of this page is well within Zuckerman estimates.)

Zuckerman may have had a reason to work that way, but readers should question his methodology before jumping to conclusions on his results. With his numbers instead of someone else’s, the results would be very much biased towards associating rich countries with atheism.

Another problem with using those numbers to devalue Christianity is that Christians do not claim: Religiosity, any religion, is better than non-religiosity. The Christian claim is: Actual commitment to Christ and his teachings (as opposed to merely following some religion, or even calling yourself a Christian) makes the world a better place.  You cannot counter Christian thought by showing how the Scandinavians are better off than the average “religious” nation. You would need to compare the least religious peoples (which are probably not the Scandinavians) with the nations who are most committed to Christ.

Some other problems include: Correlation is not causality. Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Norway are all countries where the Lutheran Church closely associated with the state. The statement “Unbelieving countries (like Scandinavia’s) are successful” may have no more or less cause and effect to it than “countries where even the state officially support the church (like Scandinavia’s) are successful.”

And it could be questioned whether you can really call their societies all that healthy. Is their success sustainable in the long term? Many people say no. Are their children growing up in happy, stable two-parent family environments? Very few of them are. Do their numbers on suicide, heavy drinking and depression give the impression of happy countries?

In summary, the few countries and societal indicators Zuckerman selects cannot, seriously, lead to any conclusion about societal unbelief compared to societal health in general, in all countries everywhere. To try and use it as a statement against a particular religion, for example Christianity, would be even worse. Using other statistics than Zuckerman’s, we should rather regard Vietnam, North Korea, and China as the world’s most atheistic nations. These will be better indicators of the level of societal health in non-believing countries.

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* Some of you may observe that, for example, the Chinese or North Korean governments would not be realistic sources for the amount of believers in those countries. True, but we do have at least some other information on the religious beliefs in those nations. Operation World specializes in collecting these statistics. Voice of the Martyrs makes it their job to speak to underground believers in countries where there is no religious freedom. Their conclusions about numbers of believers will be less than 100% accurate, but it is still a mathematical estimate, and not a totally uninformed “guesstimate.” Zuckerman may have unreliable statistics for these areas, but his statistics for places like Sweden and Norway is also obviously unreliable. Yet, he apparently treats his unreliable data in two opposite ways, seemingly using the highest possible number of unbelievers for successful Scandinavian countries, and the lowest ones for unsuccessful communist countries.

Yep- Sharing the Christian faith with your children is not child abuse

I already wrote a pair of articles (here) about the (unscientific) Dawkinsian notion that religious instruction to children amounts to child abuse. But there are more evidence than I mentioned, from larger test groups. Here, Tom Gilson points out what a large study concluded. He believes this should “cast serious doubts” upon the credibility of Dawkins’s best seller, “The God Delusion.” (Another author who casts serious doubt upon Dawkins etc. is Vox Day, who’s book “The Irrational Atheist” is downloadable free of charge here.) Gilson also asks, here, why no scientist took the Oxford “Professor for the public understanding of science” to task for his anti-science conclusion. Are scientists being consistent?