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What's the secret to a happy marriage? It's up for debate
Recent research suggests that Republicans are more happily married than Democrats. But other experts say the secret of wedded bliss lies in economics or education. - photo by Lois M Collins
A "liberal-conservative divide" exists when it comes to whether people are happily married, according to a research brief just released by the Institute for Family Studies.

"It suggests partisanship is one cultural factor linked to the prevalence, quality and stability of family life in America," wrote W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger. Wilcox directs the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and is a senior fellow at the institute, among other titles. He has also done consulting work for the Deseret News. Wolfinger is a professor of family and consumer studies and adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Utah.

The duo analyzed the General Social Survey, ranking ideology on a scale that placed extremely liberal at the low end and extremely conservative at the high end of a seven-point scale. Moderates were at 4.

They conclude conservatives are much more likely to be married than either moderates or liberals, a relationship they say remains after they controlled for such demographics as race, age, sex, income and education.

They did not find a connection between ideology and the quality of a person's marriage when they looked only at married folks. "Although conservatives are more likely to be married than liberals, their marriages tend to be of equal quality," they wrote.

That changed when they looked at the "effects of political ideology on the chances of being in a very happy marriage among all Americans, not just those who are currently married." Then conservatives have a 12 point greater likelihood, which is somewhat diminished when controlling for race, age, sex, income and education. They concluded that it holds true that conservatives are more apt to be happily married because they're more apt to be married.

Others disagree about factors that lead to formation of happy marriages. A recent article in Time by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, who co-wrote "Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture," maintains the real issue impacting marriage including whether it happens at all is the economy.

In their book, they noted that despite complexities in what's going on with families, "the conclusion is short and simple: It's the economy, stupid."

They write for the Time piece that "economic status is more important than political affiliation in shaping family structure and choices. All Americans except women in the top 10 percent of earners have seen their marriage rates decrease over the past 40 years. Moreover, the people most likely to report happy marriages have more education than anyone else, and the children of high income parents are more likely to attend and complete college. People with more education are also less likely to get divorced."

Education impacts whether couples marry at all and whether they become parents. A 2013 Pew Research Center study found "marriage has been on the decline for decades, particularly for those with less education. At the same time, the share of nonmarital births for the less educated has risen dramatically, and the likelihood of divorce remains significantly higher among those lacking a college degree than among those who have one."

Just in time for Valentine's Day last year, The Atlantic published an article with the headline "Marriage Stages a Comeback (but Mostly Just for College Grads).

New York Magazine says a brain imaging study published recently in Human Brain Mapping found relationship quality for older, long-married women "is particularly related to the neural activity they show in response to their husbands displays of positive emotion, rather than negative emotion."

Much of the advice on happy marriages has nothing to do with political persuasion, economics or education. The Internet also abounds with suggestions for maintaining marital bliss. Kindness, consideration, good grooming, intimacy and tolerance make the list in a 2014 Huffington Post advice piece.
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