The Sexist

D.C. Has Lowest Marriage Rate In Nation, Largest Percentage of Same-Sex Couples


According to a recent Pew Research study, the District of Columbia has the lowest marriage rate in the country. Only 23 percent of women and 28 percent of men and in D.C. are married, compared to 48 and 52 percent nationwide. The rates in D.C. are so low that they lie entirely off the Pew map's color key. The closest states to D.C.'s numbers are Rhode Island, where 43 percent of women are married, and Alaska, where 47 percent of men are married.

Why aren't D.C. residents getting hitched?

The Pew poll offers up one possibly related figure: residents of D.C. get married significantly later in life than do the residents of the 50 states. In D.C., the median age at first marriage is 30 for women and 32 for men. In contrast, the median age for a first marriage in the state of Idaho is 24 for women and 25 for men.


Additionally, marriage rates are generally lower in urban areas than they are in rural areas. A quick review of the Pew map shows that states like Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas have the highest concentration of married couples, whereas the states which host the nation's biggest cities—like New York and California—generally have a lower percentage of married people. D.C., which is all city, all the time, would clearly trend toward singledom.

But the District also has another demographic issue working against high marriage rates. In the 2000 "gay census," the District of Columbia ranked first in the nation for its percentage of same-sex couples. Same-sex couples, of course, cannot currently be married in D.C., and their out-of-state marriages became recognized in the District only recently.

If D.C.'s gay marriage bill is successful, it won't just ensure equality for all. It will also, strangely enough, make D.C. look a lot better in the eyes of conservative defenders of traditional marriage. When those people glance at a report on the strength of marriage in this country, they probably think that us heathens in the District of Columbia are singlehandedly rejecting the institution. But in a couple years, D.C. may appear significantly more married. I'm not a big proponent of the institution myself, but I can appreciate the irony there: in D.C., at least, the tradition's remaining relevance may just depend upon same-sex couples wanting to opt-in.

  • Joe Mustich, JP

    It's time DC.

    Cheers, Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace,
    Washington, Connecticut, USA

    All summer long I officiated for same-sex couples who came to CT to wed from all across the country. Congrats to all.

    And kudos to CT for supporting marriage equality.

  • creativemeat

    It's good practice to not only compare DC statistics with other States, but to also find city-level data and compare DC's data with other cities.

    So your title is a bit misleading since we don't know if DC has the lowest marriage rate compared to other cities.

  • Sean Cronin

    Does that mean gets no illicit love in the District?

  • Leland Traiman

    Domestic Partners was invented by a gay couple, Tom Brougham & Barry Warren, in 1982 and advanced by lesbian and gay organizations to obtain the benefits of marriage when most lesbians and gay men viewed marriage as a discredited patriarchal institution.
    "Marriage equality" will only exist when we have all of the rights of marriage, both federal and state, regardless of how those rights are labeled, marriage or domestic partnerships. Therefore, DC's marriage bill will not insure equality for all. Marriage equality does not exist anywhere in the US and, given our activists' obsession with the word rather than the rights, it will not happen for a long time to come.
    Additionally, doing away with domestic partnerships, as this bill suggests is anti-choice.

  • NWtoSE

    This study did not mention all of the men and I guess women as well that are MARRIED TO THEIR JOBS. I can't fight anymore with trying to date a guy when he is really in love with his government job and GETTING ahead at all costs. DC makes it seem wrong to want to get married and I am a feminist for heavens sake- and my choice is that I would like to be in a LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP leading to MARRIAGE. Is it is too much to ask for? (don't be too harsh with the reply comments- I can handle the personal attacks if they come LOL) I just love DC though. . . Did I totally comment off topic????

  • Amanda Hess

    I think you may just have to go to Clarendon. Really sorry about that.

  • Victor

    I personally find it very pleasant. I was stuck in the midwest for years, where everyone my age was married and had children. In DC, it seems the people that want to go and do that get shipped off to VA or MD leaving the rest of us to enjoy our lives.

  • K

    Maybe I'm being slow today, but what happened to the 5% of women that some of the 28% of men are married to? Do they live in "kept woman" apartments in NoVA? Are 5% of women lying to the Pew statisticians about being single in order to pick them up? Or are those men married... to GHOSTS?!

    I may be behind the times, these things change so fast, but I thought that to count as "married", you had to have someone to be married *to*?

  • Amanda Hess

    K, you are seriously testing my very limited quantitative abilities here. But let's try it: One would think that, since women in D.C. get married an average of two years earlier than men do, that MORE women than men would be married in the District. In fact, the marriage gap between men and women in D.C. is much wider than in most U.S. states.

    My theory is this: Women get married younger than men, but men also die younger than women do. According to this 2006 report, D.C. has one of the lowest life expectancies in the nation. It's quite possible that in a place like D.C., the life expectancy gap between men and women is even greater, as the factors that cause men to die earlier are more pronounced here.

    According to this study, women begin to outnumber men in the general population beginning at age 30. By age 60, the population difference is striking. When married men die, they're taken out of the marriage study sample, but their wives remain in the study---they just convert back to "unmarrieds."

  • ludwig

    Nnow what happened to San Francisco and California as having the highest gay population? This study must be flawed in some way---just because someone is NOT married (such as the late Strom Thurmond who did not get married until his late 70s and then started a family) does not mean that those in Washington, D.C. are gay. Many folks who have top executive positions do not marry ( let alone have time for most social activities not geared to business) because they are too busy with their jobs.

    I might concede Washington after Fort Lauderdale, Fla.and Asheville, North Carolina being the third most heavily populated cities of gay people in the US AFTER New York---but Washington ---hardly. Incidentally, ladies---Ashville, North Carolina has the most gay women on the East Coast per city and if my observations are correct---a very large population also of gay men.

    If this study is VALID then it is time that Congress should get off their duffs, get with reality and legalize same sex marriages since Congress is essentially the City Council of Washington and the City can not do most things without Congress's approval. The present state of affairs is the same as it was for the issue of Slavery back in the early 19th century. The Southern Newspapers from the 1830-1840 era are full of the same kinds of anti-abolitionists arguments as todays attitudes are anti-gay, anti-same sex marriage.

    When will people be more tolerant of the full freedoms aspired to in our Consititution be made a full reality and discrimination against people because of their race, color, marital status, age, religion et al be made a daily factual reality when no one discriminates on the foregoing horrid bigoted principals?

  • Amanda Hess

    The reason that D.C. appears to have a higher gay population than anywhere else in the country is that the District (a city) is being compared to states, not other cities. The marriage percentages and gay population figures are probably correct, but we're still comparing apples to oranges, which is the subject of this post.

  • Laura

    K - The reason 28% of men can be married to 23% of women is because there are more women than men in DC. Let's assume a population of 100 men. If 28% of them are married, that means there are 28 married men. In that same population, in order to get to an equal number of married women (28), the population of women must be 122 (122 * 23% = 28). Hope that helps.

  • K


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  • joan

    DC is pouring tax dollars into a front group for the Nation of Islam called the Wedded Bliss Foundation ostensibly to promote marriage.

  • adams morgan girl

    I'm wondering if there is any correlation between a large LGBT community and the likelihood of heterosexual couples marrying?

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  • A

    Looking at the Pew map, I found it amusing that many Red States, such as Wyoming, have a much higher rate of people who are currently divorced and who have been married three of more times that states like California. Not all of those respondents can be Republican congressmen, so what's going on? I thought those of us on the coasts were the ones destroying the 'institution of marriage'.

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  • Marie

    I see why the author would like to draw correlation between the studies but to suggest that this marriage equality bill in D.C. is going to increase marriage is a far-fetched one. Let's all be honest, the majority of that unmarried population are couples that are living together. If the focus is building up marriage in D.C., there is a greater number of unmarried families living out there that could benefit from bills and social implements to get them in marriages. This would also benefit the kids who statistically do better in school and life when they have married not just cohabitating parents.

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  • MSH

    Straights may not marry in DC, but they continue to have sex and produce children. DC has the highest percentage of out-of-wedlock births. This article would be better if it made note of that trend and its correlation with race.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Well done, Laura. I had worked out the same formula, roughly, in my mind before I saw your post. In 2000, there were roughly 269,000 men in DC & 302,000 women, almost the same as your ratio (122:100) predicted.

  • Rev. Starlene Burns

    DC has a low number of marriages because of the once upon a time blood test requirements. Many people were having private ceremonies in MD and VA and then their big bang wedding (bypassing the requirements for marriage) in DC. With that being said, I wonder how DC are getting their stats, other than from the DC marriage licenses.

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