This summer, University of Utah researcher Nicholas Wolfinger made headlines with research that claimed to predict the ideal age for marriage. Wolfinger found that for couples serious about the vow, “til death do us part,” there’s an optimal range of ages during which to walk down the aisle. The research suggested that couples who married for the first time between the ages of 28 and 32 had the lowest divorce rate.
“The odds of divorce decline as you age from your teenage years through your late twenties and early thirties,” Wolfinger wrote. ”Thereafter, the chances of divorce go up again as you move into your late thirties and early forties.”
Yet if his research is correct, then Utah is the exception to the rule. Utah has the fourth lowest divorce rate in the nation per capita, but is also the youngest-marrying state in the country. The median age of first marriages in the state is 23.5 for women and 25.6 for men. Despite that, just 9.2% of of the state’s population is divorced, far below the national average.
Couples who marry in their teens have the highest rate of divorce nationwide, and overall, 40-50% of first marriages will end in divorce. That number goes up to 60% for second marriages, and even higher for third and fourth marriages. So why does Utah buck the trend?
Some factors are harder to quantify, like a strong emphasis on religion and family life in many Utah communities. In fact, a recent Op-Ed in the Salt Lake Tribune argued that Utah’s emphasis on family life could provide a national model for reducing intergenerational poverty, sometimes called the poverty cycle. The U.S. Senate has even called Utah leaders to testify on the state’s successful initiatives combating issues like homelessness and poverty.
The authors wrote, “When government agencies, community advocates, and state legislators join forces with other community leaders, you have the key ingredients to make a meaningful difference. And when national leaders show interest in yet another Utah innovation, we know that our own laboratory of democracy here in the west has a chance to be a policy leader for the nation.”