In which professions are Americans most likely to be married?

by on January 8, 2015 at 11:12 am in Data Source, Economics, Medicine | Permalink

Catherine Rampell reports:

While engineers, mathematicians and scientists today are (unfairly) stereotyped as awkward nerds who don’t know how to interact with the opposite sex, in 1950 they were among the occupations most likely to be married. Today, the most commonly conjugated occupations are instead more often medical professionals with doctorates, starting with dentists (81 percent of whom are hitched)…

The top of the list looks like this:

1) Dentist
2) Chief executive
3) Sales engineer
4) Physician
5) Podiatrist
6) Optometrist
7) Farm product buyer
8) Precision grinder
9) Religious worker
10) Tool and die maker

We also learn this:

Turns out that in 1950, many of the occupations whose members were most likely to end up divorced were creative or artistic ones (artist, writer/director, dancer, designer, writer), which perhaps reflects the communities that were most accepting of divorce at the time. In 2010, the occupations with the highest divorce rates were predominantly in manufacturing or other areas that have been subject to downsizing (drilling machine operator, knitter textile operative, force operator, winding machine operative, postal clerk). This seems to support the idea that economic stability is a good predictor of marital status.

Do read the whole thing.

1 prior_approval January 8, 2015 at 11:36 am

‘Religious worker’

And the Catholics are confounding the statistics again with their unAmerican ways.

2 Ted Craig January 8, 2015 at 11:58 am

Well, I’m married to a Catholic religious worker, so I’m not sure that statement is true.

3 TMC January 8, 2015 at 12:07 pm

You are surprised a Religious worker would marry?
Priests and Nuns are outnumbered by lay persons in the Catholic Church.
Not sure what to make of the unAmerican thing.

4 asdf January 8, 2015 at 12:17 pm

A lot of priest duties are being done by married deacons these days.

5 Art Deco January 8, 2015 at 11:37 am

This seems to support the idea that economic stability is a good predictor of marital status.

Or, put more crassly, his loss of status means she figures she can trade-up.

6 Urso January 8, 2015 at 11:44 am

“Economic stability” is one way to interpret that. There are a lot of other descriptors that you can put in that sentence and it would hold true. “Having a high school diploma but no college.” “Belonging to a union.” “Being a middle age male fan of the Detroit Lions.” All of which are probably disproportionately overrepresented in the manufacturing trades.

This is a roundabout way of saying that if you want to draw conclusions about the effect of economic stability on marriage, study the effects of economic stability on marriage. Otherwise you’re just guessing.

7 John Thacker January 8, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Or, the tax code does really unusual things that can reward marrying under certain economic situations and divorcing in others. (Marrying generally saves taxes in a single earner/one disproportionate earner household, costs extra taxes/lost benefits with both earn about the same amount of money, whether both wealthy or because the primary breadwinner was downsized/took a lower paying job.)

8 Alan Gunn January 8, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Yes. It can easily cost a low-income two-earner couple a couple of thousand dollars a year in tax liability to get married. Not surprisingly, many of them aren’t willing to pay that much.

9 Lord Action January 8, 2015 at 1:11 pm

While I agree that is a bizarre manifestation of policy, income taxes aren’t the only form of taxes and there are other forms of subsidy for the married. Estate taxes come to mind. So do immigration benefits.

10 msgkings January 8, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Estate taxes? How so? Also, the estate tax only kicks in for very wealthy people, less than 3% of people who die pay any. That number may even be high.

11 Lord Action January 8, 2015 at 2:06 pm

A huge swath are exempted by the unlimited marital transfer. You don’t get that if you’re just friends.

Estates taxes affect more than those who actually pay it – they distort the finances of those who are in the ballpark and need to plan (and pay planners) to avoid it.

Immigration benefits are also a niche subsidy. So are health insurance privileges. Social Security Survivors Benefit. There are a lot of little things. It isn’t just the income tax.

12 Lord Action January 8, 2015 at 2:45 pm

I apologize for my language when I call not taxing someone as much as you possibly could a “subsidy” – that isn’t really fair. When I claim a child tax credit, I am not being subsidized for having children, I am just being punished a little less. But I hope my meaning is clear. For some tax, benefit, and legal purposes other than income tax, marriage is beneficial.

13 Alan Gunn January 8, 2015 at 3:33 pm

The child tax credit isn’t a benefit for being married, it’s a benefit for having children. Like many other benefits, it comes with a marriage penalty, because two people who aren’t married can earn more (total) than one couple before the credit starts to phase out. Most of the tax benefits for married couples are for couples with only one high-income member. Two low-income workers with children will usually lose if they are married, as opposed to living together without being married, and the dollar amounts are not trivial. A couple of years ago, someone who runs a tax clinic for low-income people said they just don’t see low-income working people who are married any longer.

14 Lord Action January 8, 2015 at 3:49 pm

“The child tax credit isn’t a benefit for being married, it’s a benefit for having children.”

I didn’t say that it was. I could have used any tax benefit as an example there. I was apologizing for a misleading use of the word “subsidy.”

Back to marriage, there are some people who will benefit from an income tax perspective if married and some people who will lose. But income taxes are only part of the picture and often not the dominant part. I agree that income tax treatment of marriage is often anti-marriage, and in general a poorly designed if you are interested in encouraging pro-social behaviors.

15 msgkings January 8, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Huge swath? Only unmarried people with estates larger than $5.3 million have any estate tax to pay, they could give that to a spouse, yes.

16 Lord Action January 8, 2015 at 4:03 pm

“Huge swath?”

I’m having difficulty finding a number, but IIRC there are considerably more people with estates in the $5-10m range than with estates in the $10m+ range. $8m is an MD’s retirement kitty. I dimly recall there being something like four times as many people who escape the estate tax through marriage as actually pay the estate tax. Obviously we are talking about better-off people here, but it’s still a considerable number of families.

Friends of my in-laws married for estate tax purposes. They weren’t super-rich or anything.

17 Lord Action January 8, 2015 at 4:15 pm

“Only unmarried people with estates larger than $5.3 million have any estate tax to pay, they could give that to a spouse, yes.”

My understanding is that being married effectively doubles the size of an estate that is exempt. I.e., when married, a $10.6m estate is exempt. There are some nuances, but that’s the gist.

I’m not a lawyer. Go pay a planner if you want authoritative advice on this.

18 Mo January 8, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Lord Action, are you being intentionally obtuse? The point is the couples with low marriage rates (drilling machine operator, knitter textile operative, force operator, winding machine operative, postal clerk) aren’t exactly the sorts of careers one has that ends up kicking you into the $5.3M estate land. If you’re in one of those jobs income and payroll taxes are your concern.

19 Lord Action January 8, 2015 at 4:56 pm

“Lord Action, are you being intentionally obtuse?”

No, I’ve just drifted away from the original point. It’s my fault. Yeah, at the low end, taxes can be an impediment to marriage. I’ve no argument with that.

20 John Thacker January 8, 2015 at 5:22 pm

PPACA subsidies also strongly encourage divorce at the lower end. It’s very easy for a couple to each qualify for subsidies if not married, and to not qualify if married. The origin of that is the (correct) idea that people living together save a lot on expenses, but then the tax code and poverty line and other statistics basically assume that only married people co-habit.

21 Pshrnk January 8, 2015 at 11:39 am

Or the communities where people were more likely to be divorced had higher proportions of dramatic erratic personality disorders. Certainly the top of the marriage list has occupations where persistence greatly increases success.

22 mysteron January 8, 2015 at 12:11 pm

This. The stereotype of the tortured artist must hold at least some weight in this. Lack of conformity, fitting into society possibly comes from hanging around with a like-minded bunch of dilletantes but inherent personality traits which lead people to become artists and directors in the first place may also play a role.

From my experience, aside from occasionally being socially awkward etc, most nerds crave relationship stability, possibly due to their lack of available options on the dating scene (no trade-up potential) or possibly also due to personality traits?

Would love to see this data plotted with salaries relative to inflation, to see if prestige and earning potential are factors. Interesting that the scientists have disappeared off the list, possibly to do with the rise in casualisation in that field, moving countries and cities regularly might not make for a happy marriage a la the time of the IBM “white picket fence 1950s career for life”.

23 Thor January 8, 2015 at 12:42 pm

“Or the communities where people were more likely to be divorced had higher proportions of DRAMATIC [emphasis added] erratic personality disorders. Certainly the top of the marriage list has occupations where persistence greatly increases success.”

Theatre world!

24 Andrew M January 8, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Creative/artistic careers are also the least economically stable. As an actor you can be on good money for several years, enabling you to marry and start a family, then suddenly find yourself struggling for work with no warning. A married female actor with no work could just take time off to look after the family; but in our society if the man is off work for a long time, the woman starts to look elsewhere.

25 8 January 8, 2015 at 2:30 pm

I bet if you lumped unmarried together with divorced, the list would look the same as in 1950.

26 Enrique January 8, 2015 at 11:47 am

What is a “sales engineer”?

27 Dave January 8, 2015 at 11:49 am

Trained engineer (technical person) who works in sales, communicating with the technical people on the client side.

28 mysteron January 8, 2015 at 12:13 pm

So a nerd with social skills, could be a dangerous combination.

29 John Thacker January 8, 2015 at 12:15 pm

A nerd with social skills to talk to both fellow nerds and non-nerds, in fact, to be good at the job.

30 Trenton January 8, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Amazing that the Federal Government precisely knows the marital status of the national “Precision Grinder” occupation group, over six decades (…or that of “sales engineer” group).

A rookie journalist might suppose there would be very significant uncertainty in any nationwide, self-reported sampling of such specific personal information. What could go wrong.

31 ummm January 8, 2015 at 1:30 pm

same for ‘results manager’..another vague title

32 Michael B Sullivan January 8, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Dave’s answer is entirely correct, but I want to expand on it, because it probably shows some interesting factors in terms of what makes one a desirable mate.

A Sales Engineer is basically, the technical person who goes along with a sales person and shows off the product. SE’s aren’t developers: they do not create the products being sold. They know how to install and configure them, and know what kinds of customizations can be applied. They can demo the product well, and hopefully convince the technical customer that the product is real and not all smoke and mirrors created by the sales person.

SE’s are paid on commission along with their salesperson, though probably their compensation skews a little more towards base salary and a little less towards commission than a pure salesperson. Still, their income can skew wildly based on number of sales. Successful SEs do quite well, perhaps not as well as a very senior developer, but definitely better earlier in their careers than a comparable developer.

A successful SE needs good social skills, decent technical skills, a lot of self-confidence, and needs to work very well with one or more salespeople to tag-team clients.

33 John Thacker January 8, 2015 at 5:23 pm

A few companies only have Sales Engineers, no other salesforce, because the products are so technical and sold to technical people. (E.g., Agilent)

34 Chris January 8, 2015 at 9:57 pm

This is an excellent overview. The salary part is spot on. Less percentage commission than a sales person. Higher pay initially than a developer, but generally the market tops out before that for a senior developer. Another interesting thing about sales engineers is that it is one of the more heavily male professions at 94.9% male.

35 Ted Craig January 8, 2015 at 11:57 am

Since many CEOs are engineers, I’d say they’re still doing fairly well. Also, the definition of engineer in the 1950s was a little different than it is today, I believe.

36 Vladimir January 8, 2015 at 12:04 pm

This post should be edited to read: professions in which American males are most likely to be married. Clearly women are a small minority in many of the top ten professions listed.

37 John Thacker January 8, 2015 at 12:13 pm

That doesn’t, to me, say one way or another whether women in those industries are more or less likely to be married than other American women. Indeed, a profession could be male dominated and yet that make it even more likely that women entering that profession could get married, since a lot of marriages do occur among professional colleagues and schoolmates. (Roughly half of all women physicians are married to physicians.)

Although for many of those it’s changing more rapidly than you might think– particularly as physicians and dentists and optometrists are less likely to have solo practices and more likely to be employees at larger practices and hospitals. That’s how pharmacy became female dominated.

38 Ted Craig January 8, 2015 at 1:33 pm

I’m sure about your definition of “small minority.” A third of dentists and physicians are women, with that percentage growing quickly.

39 Ted Craig January 8, 2015 at 1:35 pm

That should read “not sure.”

40 dearieme January 8, 2015 at 12:10 pm

“1) Dentist
2) Chief executive
3) Sales engineer”

Once again I commend Keynes’ desire that economists be more like dentists.

41 Horhe January 8, 2015 at 12:12 pm

I see it differently. It’s basically impossible not to get hitched… someone somewhere is going to find you, the male, acceptable. As long as there is no mismatch between your standards and the quality of mate you can attract, then you will find a significant other. Sex is a market controlled by women, but marriage is one controlled by men. But do you marry her? If you are the awkward, antisocial, sweating palms type, then you are not going to attempt to trade up or anything. You have found your girl, she’s good enough, now marriage and get on with your life! But if you are confident that you can have a string of mates, including very desirable ones, culminating maybe in a very good wife, then you will put off tying the knot and also having children, if you are responsible, until you have sown your wild oats.

This is why at my age (26), the males my age whom I see getting hitched are invariably the ones who are either fed up with the dating game, or didn’t have much game to begin with. Meanwhile, a Uni buddy who swore up and down that he’d be married with 2 kids by the age of 25 is finding the field a bit too tempting to abandon and so avoids any good relationships in favor of being with women he wouldn’t marry, not even in a moment of weakness (for other reasons except physical). Don’t know what it says about me that everybody but me is betting on me getting hitched with my gf of five years, who is not Philippina or younger than me 😛 Maybe I’m a closet Casanova?

42 Horhe January 8, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Why no edit? I wanted to add for the sake of completing the picture I painted, that I am in a developing country, college educated and in a very successful cohort of high achievers, at least financially, so the males I am talking about are not dismissible on economic grounds. I do see a trend for my high school buddies, who were a more diverse lot – the ones who did not get into college or who could only enter low status occupations (policemen, menials, low white collar) are actually more likely to be married younger. Maybe it’s a reasonable reaction to perceived economic disadvantages. You find a mate, form a household, and so dilute career, income and debt risk, with a perception of a mediocre lifetime economic performance. Wastrels, of course, are less likely to be married regardless of economic disadvantage.

43 A Definite Beta Guy January 8, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Your perception is that it isn’t possible to NOT get married, despite the observed existence of never-married singles?

44 Horhe January 8, 2015 at 8:01 pm

No, of course not, I’ve met singles and childless people. My perception, based only on my experience of a limited sample size and diverse only in economic attainment, in a non-US and more homogenous country, is the romantic notion is that “there’s somebody out there for everyone”. Whether that results in getting married or not, earlier or later or never, is beside the point. What is relevant to Tyler Cowen’s post, even though I went off-tangent, is that I think that preference and calculations regarding the mating game are the most important for how you will end up, and that most people are not cut off from conjugal bliss by movie levels of awkwardness. Discounting the economic security aspect, the fact that some professions are married more than others at a certain age seems to indicate not a surprising amount of “game”, since I’ve never believed in that stereotype, but a lack of game, otherwise they would be playing the field for longer and marrying later, if they marry. At least in my national culture, which, though it’s not Russia, sees a lot of “bridal export” (though not of the mail order variety), which I interpret as being indicative of my countrywomen valuing settling down relatively more than women in Western countries (as I perceive it to be from articles and general media), at least for the time being. The inverse of this, which might not be true, but I have seen repeated including in this blog, is the Japanese women’s apparently observable lack of interest in tying the knot.

Now that I think about it, I realize that my mistake is in considering only the married status of young-ish people (under 40), and not the overall marriage rate. I do very much agree with the point about economic downturns and family troubles. Maybe that’s a bit age-ist on my part, or solipsistic.

I don’t post very often, so you’ll excuse me if, in trying to be as exact as possible, I’ve tied myself into a knot or managed to dilute my point by invoking many caveats.

45 Someone from the other side January 8, 2015 at 2:57 pm

This must be either a creative troll trying to shame singles or one of the dumber posts I’ve read on MR

46 Horhe January 8, 2015 at 8:27 pm

I’ll concede to it being one of the dumber post you’ve read. The thought of shaming singles or the childless never crossed my mind. I was actually thinking of younger people’s marital status and how they choose whether to defer marriage in favor of a longer bachelorhood. I guess that may be worse. I posted a bit of an explanation above, but I guess I’d better stick to reading, not posting. I still think that, absent penury, professions are irrelevant to the marriage rate of their practitioners. A factory worker should have just as many chances to be married as a professor. Whether it works out like that in the end depends on other factors, many of which are non-job related. Where professions mean something is that they either give you a boost in the dating field through prestige or higher income or both (not that there’s a minimum cut off rate where the job makes you unable to find a spouse, but that some jobs win you extra points, which should not be a controversial statement), or whether the job itself is indicative of something in your character that would affect your prospects, like introversion etc. Frankly, I’ve always thought the stereotypes were exaggerated and shouldn’t be reflected in statistics. I have met plenty of boisterous, loud, swaggering engineers (it is, after all, a very prestigious and in demand occupation). Maybe Tyler’s previous posts would suggest that they wouldn’t have that edge that introversion and capability to focus would give them that would make them truly successful, but we’re discussing average joes right?

47 ummm January 8, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Turns out that in 1950, many of the occupations whose members were most likely to end up divorced were creative or artistic ones (artist, writer/director, dancer, designer, writer), which perhaps reflects the communities that were most accepting of divorce at the time.

til: liberals are insufferable

48 Cooper January 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm

You just learned that today?

49 The Other Jim January 9, 2015 at 10:21 pm

They’re not insufferable — they’re just more accepting than you! It’s all about tolerance!

50 Mitch Berkson January 8, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Kind of strange that they didn’t include lawyers.

51 Todd Kreider January 8, 2015 at 2:30 pm

We pre-cyborgs are having a hard time wrapping this 19th concept of relationships around our unenhanced heads.

52 Todd Kreider January 8, 2015 at 2:34 pm

(19th century…. But you knew that…)

53 Ted Craig January 8, 2015 at 2:54 pm

By the way, is it disturbing that there is some correlation between the married list and this list?

54 Dain January 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm

That seems strange, as being married and gainfully employed in a skilled trade would seem to predict NOT killing yourself (no matter what misery American Beauty tried to sell us, e.g.)

Guess the sweet spot is somewhere between unmarried and unemployed and its opposite? Or maybe the suicidal broke guys thing is only true for white males, who place more of their identity in what they do for a living. At least that’s something I recall reading somewhere…

55 Joe Teicher January 8, 2015 at 9:54 pm

I clicked on the link. I noticed that the numbers they give for each profession have no relationship to the overall ratio that they calculate. Electrician had 2X the suicide rate of physician but electrician ranked 13th and physician ranked 2nd. I don’t think there is much to learn from that article other than that business insider is garbage.

56 RM January 8, 2015 at 2:58 pm

The increasing rates of marriage among physicians since 1990 reflects the financial boondoggle that they have been on since the 1980s. Note that they do not appear on the graphic before 1990.

57 Android January 8, 2015 at 3:04 pm

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58 prior_approval January 9, 2015 at 8:46 am

Average is truly over. This sort of text one will skip right by any web site owner who finds ‘self-recommending’ a meaningful term.

59 Miguel Madeira January 8, 2015 at 6:10 pm

“engineers, mathematicians and scientists today are (unfairly) stereotyped as awkward nerds” this

I suspect that this could be an illusion created by conflating the “normal” engineers and the “nerdy” mathematicians and scientist in the super-category engineers-mathematicians-and-scientists

60 Bill January 8, 2015 at 8:39 pm

Which profession has the greatest probability of cohabitation without commitment?

Incentives matter.

61 Age was not controlled January 9, 2015 at 5:10 am

Doctors are older than most others, because the education takes such a long time. So the report does not say if doctors are more often married than others in the same age. They might be, as doctors tend to have very conservative values: they don’t want or can not enjoy the free markets or search.for a better girlfriend and feel failed if they are not married.

62 andres January 9, 2015 at 1:57 pm

what exactly is a sales engineer?

63 The Other Jim January 9, 2015 at 10:19 pm

In reality, it could be anyone who sells anything remotely technical, such as light bulbs. People love to put the word “engineer” after their title, and that includes salesmen.

But it’s supposed to be someone with an engineering background who is dedicated to helping specific customers understand, buy, deploy, debug, and maintain complex high-tech systems. For instance, purchasing a computer network for a campus would involve not just a salesman who quotes the price but several sales engineers who help you get what you need and get it operational.

64 The Other Jim January 9, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Artists divorce more because they are more accepting of divorce? How circular can you get?

Maybe there are a lot of tall people in the NBA because they are more accepting of basketball.

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