- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 12, 2005

Couples who married for the first time in the last half of the 1980s were more likely to reach their 10th wedding anniversary than couples who married a decade earlier, new U.S. Census Bureau data shows.

Of couples who married for the first time in 1975 to 1979 — years when no-fault divorce laws were sweeping the country — roughly 68 percent of women and 72 percent of men were still in that marriage 10 years later, according to the marriage report released Thursday.

However, of couples who married for the first time a decade later, between 1985 to 1989, closer to 75 percent made it to their 10th anniversary.

The data do not show “large increases in marital longevity,” cautioned bureau analyst Rose Kreider.

But they do suggest that the trend toward shorter marriages — marriages cut short by divorce or death — may have ended for couples who married in the last half of the 1980s, she said.

The new census report, which is based on data from the national Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), offers another piece of good news for those who want to see a revival of long-lasting, stable marriages in America: More people who are marrying are doing it for the first time.

In 1990, only 54 percent of marriages were between men and women who had never married before, Ms. Kreider said.

This meant that in 1990, 46 percent of marriages involved someone who was remarrying after a divorce or death of a spouse. This was far higher than in 1970, when only about 30 percent of marriages involved a previously married person.

The new 2001 SIPP data show that the number of “first-time” marriages is rebounding, with 62 percent of marriages involving two never-married persons.

The bureau does not explain the reason for such trends, Ms. Kreider added. However, SIPP, which involves more than 56,000 people, offers researchers a wealth of detailed and historical data on marriage and divorce.

Separately, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released a report that couples benefit from taking marriage and relationships programs.

Urban Institute researchers examined 39 comprehensive studies of marriage and relationship programs and found that couples in these programs improved both their overall satisfaction with their relationship and their communication as a couple.

The researchers cautioned that the number of studied programs was “very small.”

Also, because the couples in the programs were rarely low-income ones, the review “cannot determine the impact of marriage programs on low-income populations,” they said.

Wade F. Horn, HHS assistant secretary for children and families, said the review underscores the importance of Bush administration efforts to help interested couples make use of such programs.

The administration has called for $120 million a year for competitive grants to states and $120 million a year for research and other activities related to promoting healthy marriage in America.

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