Saturday, March 5, 2016

Science Shows Who Makes the Perfect Husband and Wife

“A bride should be five years younger than her groom, should come from the same cultural background, and be the more intelligent of the pair if couples are to have a successful marriage, scientists have announced.”

Well, it's official. Science has discovered the formula that increases a couple's chances of a long and happy marriage … well … at least increases that probability by a fifth.
(Steven Adams. “Scientists find mathematical formula for the perfect wife.”
The Telegraph. March 03, 2010.)

A team from the Geneva School of Business published a study in the European Journal of Operational Research that looked at 1,074 couples aged between 19 and 75 years, to find which social factors were most important to a long and happy relationship.

Not only did their results show that the current state of marriages or partnerships is well below the social optimum. They also determined that approximately 68% of individuals (7 out of 10) should be reallocated to a new couple for a higher likelihood of survival.

“Besides the man being five years older than his bride, and that his bride should share the same heritage, they concluded that a wife should be at least 27 per cent more intelligent than her husband. She should also hold a degree, while he should not.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, the academics found that marrying a divorcee reduced the chance of wedded bliss.

“Nguyen Vi Cao, who led the research, promised: 'If people follow these guidelines in choosing their partners they can increase their chances of a happy, long marriage by up to 20 per cent.'”

(Nguyen Vi Cao, Emmanuel Fragniere, et al. “Optimizing the marriage market: An application of the linear assignment model.” European Journal of Operational Research.
Volume 202. April 16, 2010.)
For reference sake, allow me to present a simple review of the findings:

* Husband should be 5 years older than the wife.

* Husband and wife should be of the same heritage.

* Wife should be 27% more intelligent than the husband.

* Wife should hold a degree while he shouldn't.

* Don't marry a divorcee.

The Take Away

First, let's establish the state of marriage in America. In 2011, the Pew Research Center found that 51% of Americans were married, compared to 72 percent in 1960.

The reason for the change? Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum said cultural "rules" now compel couples to wait to marry until they have reached upper-class status. But, Pew researcher D'Vera Cohn told HuffPost in 2011 that the decline could be due to more acceptable living arrangements, including unmarried cohabitation.

The American Community Survey Report on “Remarriage in the United States” shows marital disruption (divorce) is higher in the United States compared with European nations, so the Geneva research findings may be less applicable.

(Jamie M. Lewis and Rose M. Kreider, American Community Survey Reports. “Remarriage in the United States.” European Journal of Operational Research. March 2015.)

However, just for fun, let's use the European Journal of Operational Research for a guide and see how to have the most successful marriage chances in America.


The U.S. Bureau of the Census shows that the median age for a man's first marriage is 28.2 years-old while the median age for a woman's first marriage is 26.1 years-old. The average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old.

So, I assume – using present figures – a groom of 28 should marry a bride of 23 for best results.


The U.S. Census Bureau's 5-Year American Community Survey polled 3 million households between January 1, 2005 and Dec. 31, 2009 to determine statistical portraits of smaller communities within the United States--including races and ethnic groups--based on a variety of factors, including divorce.

The survey reported “American Indians and Alaska Natives" having the highest number of divorces in this 5-year span--12.6%. "Black or African Americans" rank second on the list at 11.5%. 10.8% of "white" people reported being divorced during the survey period--the third highest percentage. And, the lowest number of divorces among racial groups was at 4.9% for "Asians.”

And, what about interracial marriage in the United States? You may be shocked to know that in November 2000, Alabama became the last state to overturn a law banning interracial marriage. The year 2000!

Interracial marriage is on the rise, and this is confirmed by a late report from the Pew Research Center. The report indicates interracial marriage rates from 1980 -- the first year from which rich Census data on interracial marriage were publicly available -- that just 3 percent of married couples were mixed-race. In 2010, 1 in 12 married couples in the U.S. were interracial couples. The share of new marriages between spouses of a different race or ethnicity had risen to 15 percent in 2010.

Black men are two times more likely to marry someone of another race or ethnicity than Black women. The opposite is true among Asian men and women. 

Recent studies for divorce in interracial marriages are difficult to find. Research from data taken from a 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (which analyzed close to 6,000 men and women varying between the ages of 15 years and 44 years who had been married to a person of a separate race over a period of ten years) is available. Just consider that these results are somewhat subjective and dated.

The findings? The probability of divorce by the 10th year of marriage for interracial couples, relative to White/White unions, are as follows:

* White Wife & Asian Husband – 59 percent more likely to divorce in comparison to same-race white couples

* White Wife & African-American Husband – Twice as likely to divorce Asian Wife & White Husband – 4 percent more likely to divorce

* African-American Wife & White Husband – 44 percent less likely to divorce.

That makes it pretty clear that Asian-American citizens who marry other Asians stand the best chance for heritage “togetherness.”

(a) The best choice for a long-lasting interracial marriage (44% less likely to divorce) is a union between a white man and an Afro- American woman.

(b) The second best choice for a long-lasting interracial marriage (4% more likely to divorce) is a union between a white man and an Asian woman.


A project supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (2011) found: "Among white women, there were few differences according to education, but those with a college degree experienced lower divorce rates than any other education group," Manning said. "These findings showcase that the association between education and divorce differs for racial and ethnic groups, and it is important to consider this variation."

"Contrary to the notion that women with a college degree face the lowest chances of divorce, those without a high school degree actually have similar low odds of divorce," explained Dr. Susan Brown, NCFMR co-director. "The relationship between education and divorce is not straightforward."

(Bowling Green State University. "First-time divorce rate tied to education, race."  ScienceDaily. November 2011.)

According to co-director Dr. Wendy Manning, these patterns are consistent with patterns they are finding in other national data sources.

The association between education and the first-divorce rate held up even when race was factored in. Among African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics, women with less than a high school degree had a similar divorce rate to women who graduated from college. Among African-American and Hispanic women, the lowest first-divorce rates were found among women with less than a high school diploma.

"Among white women, there were few differences according to education, but those with a college degree experienced lower divorce rates than any other education group," Manning said.

Yet, some research confirms the recent declines in the probability of divorce largely reflect an increase in marital stability among the more educated. And, studies have supported the success of marriages in which wives have higher intelligence than husbands.

Research published in the August, 2014 issue of the American Sociological Review suggests that not only are men marrying women with higher education levels than theirs in greater numbers, but that these marriages have divorce rates on par with other marriages. Its conclusions run counter to previous suggestions that divorce rates are higher among marriages where wives are more educated than their husbands.

The findings rebuke notions perhaps most notoriously propagated in recent years by Susan Patton, the so-called "Princeton Mom," who wrote, "Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal.”

In a recent study published in the journal Family Relations, researchers found with overall divorce rates leveling off since the 1980s after more than a century-long rise, the rate has increasingly diverged by race and socioeconomic class, when educational attainment is factored in.

In short: Married couples who have attained higher levels of education are less likely to divorce than less-educated couples, but "African-American women don't seem to enjoy the same degree of protection that education confers on marriage," said Jeounghee Kim, assistant professor at Rutgers University, where the study was conducted.

(“Divorce Rate, Education Conversely Related; Protection Varies By Race,  Study Shows.” Huffington Post. March 11, 2013.)

 But Kim says that educational attainment could be one of the reasons those marriages don't last. "Many are the first in their families to have attained a post-secondary education and do not benefit from the cushion of intergenerational wealth possessed by some white families," she said.

Another reason black women don't reap the same benefit of education on marriage may involve the gender gap in African Americans’ educational attainment, Kim adds, noting that “there are nearly twice as many African-American women college graduates as there are men.”

When it comes to educational characteristics, more than half of white newlyweds who marry Asians have a college degree, compared with roughly a third of white newlyweds who married whites. Among Hispanics and blacks, newlyweds who marry whites tend to have higher educational attainment than do those who marry within their own racial or ethnic group.

So what does being smart have to do with marriage longevity? It may be entirely dependent upon what studies you read. However, I think one thing is certain: a man who marries an intelligent woman reaps great benefits from the union. And, conversely, a woman who marries a smart fellow gains special rewards. Education helps income, which, in turn, aids financial problems in marriage.

In fact, here is a thought about the prevalence of money problems breaking up marriage -- prospective brides and grooms may also like to know that Asian/white interracial newlyweds had a higher combined annual income than any other pairing, at over $70,000 per year. In comparison, white/white newlyweds earned $60,000 combined and Asian/Asian couples together earned $62,000 on average.

It's not clear to me why the European Journal study holds that a husband should not hold a degree although the article in The Telegraph states: “Kate Figes, who interviewed 120 people for her recent book on understanding relationship, Couples, said: "Aren't most women the more intelligent in a relationship anyway? That's my first reaction. It's the only finding that rings true, from what I've found. Because it's women who tend to determine the emotional landscape of a relationship."

(Steven Adams. “Scientists find mathematical formula for the perfect wife." The Telegraph. March 03, 2010.)

And how in the hell did the study European Journal study arrive at an exacting 27% smarter wife? It has to be in the math involving the interviews of those 1,074 couples. It is interesting, yet unclear whether “intelligence” is to be measured by I.Q. or by educational grade and college attainment. But I'll play along.

One data set from Statistic Brain Research cites that Economics majors IQ's average 128, Social Science average 115, Health and Medical Science average 111, and Social Work average 103. Those 4 majors average a 114 I.Q. So my male of lower intelligence is 83 I.Q. Of course, 100 I.Q. is considered “average.”

The greatest chances of a successful marriage occur when a woman with a Bachelors Degree and an I.Q. of 114 marries a man who has an I.Q. of 83 (which many consider well below average) and who has dropped out of college toward the end of his junior (3rd) year. 


I'm sure it comes at no surprise that marrying again – after divorce – greatly increases the chance of another divorce. Past statistics have shown that in the U.S. 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Mark Banschick, M.D., psychiatrist, child advocate and author of The Intelligent Divorce book series, believes the prime factor affecting the breakup of second and third marriages is “less glue holding the marriage together: children, family.” He thinks parent-child relationships can be a source of conflict in some marriages in some marriages, but overall, children act as a stabilizing factor in marriages and when children are absent the marriage is prone to be rocked by minor storms.

Banschick says …

“Because the great majority of children born to married couples are born during their first marriage, when the parents are up to about thirty five years old, most couples in a second marriage do not have common children to bind them together. Conversely, not having shared responsibility for kids means it's easier to leave when you are going through a rough patch. Perhaps 'for the sake of the kids' is not reason enough the stay together, though it can sometimes save a relationship.”

(Mark Banschick, “The high failure rate of second and third marriages.” Psychology Today. February 06, 2012.)

Renowned psychologist Patricia Papernow says those who remarry often have unrealistic expectations. Papernow explains: “They are in love, and they don’t really understand that the replacement of a missing partner (due to divorce, desertion or death) doesn’t actually restore the family to its first-marriage status. On the contrary, remarriage will present them with a number of unanticipated design issues such as children’s loyalty binds, the breakdown of parenting tasks, and the uniting of disparate family cultures.”

Maggie Scarf, author of seven books and recipient of the Nieman Fellowship in Journalism at Harvard says the toughest remarriage issue is often that of discipline.

Scarf says, “The stepparent’s role should be similar to that of a nanny, an aunt or a babysitter who is familiar with the rules of the house (e.g., no TV before homework is finished). She or he monitors and reports on the child’s behavior, but only the biological parent should do any kind of punishment (or let rules slide). And yet, far too often, stepparents will think they should be the enforcer if they are to get real respect from their stepchildren.”

(Maggie Scarf. “Why Second Marriages Are More Perilous.” Time. October 04, 2014.)

So the final instruction to those who want a marriage to last is widely supported – “While on the rebound, do not marry a divorcee whom you love as a replacement.” It looks as if this might be amended to “especially don't marry one with children still at home.”

Wrapping It All Up

Here is the guaranteed marriage formula according to the research of the authors of the study, “Optimizing the marriage market: An application of the linear assignment model” and my own investigation. Of course, you can disagree, laugh, or gain some slight insight in something somewhere in this post. Remember, this exercise is all in fun.

And, the Ideal Marriage winner is ...

Two Asian-Americans or a white man and an Afro-American woman, the man being a 28 year-old college dropout with an IQ around 83, and the woman being a 23 year-old college graduate with a bachelor's degree and an I.Q. of 114, neither of whom has gone through a divorce.

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