It feels like another dodgy statistic, because in Malcolm’s mind it doesn’t quite add up:
Married couples are in a minority for the first time since records began as fewer people choose to tie the knot, new figures indicate. They showed that couples are less likely to get married now than ever before, with the number of weddings at a 100-year low.
The marriage rate, a more accurate guide to the long-term trend, also fell sharply to a record low in 2007. Experts say that since the number of marriages is closely tied to the fortunes of the economy the proportion of married couples is likely to shrink even further in 2009.
Only one in 50 single women now marries each year, and only one in 43 single men. Those are the lowest marriage rates since they were first calculated in 1862. At that time weddings were largely the preserve of the wealthy, with everyone else settling for common law marriages.
That’s the opening of a two-page spread in yesterday’s Times. Curiously, in the print edition Rosemary Bennett’s story is classified as “Society: News”. By the time it reaches the web version, she has been discriminated into a gender ghetto as Home > Life & Style > Women > Families.
Look again, and carefully, at the last of those quoted paragraphs.
Malcolm cannot make it tally. The UK population, as of mid-2007, is estimated at 60,970,000: Other statistical tables suggest that the total population is rather more than 49% male and slightly less than 51% female. So how is there such a discrepancy between the number of singles, male and female, marrying? Even if that is cleared up, there remains another glaring inadequacy here. Whence comes the evidence that, before 1862, marriage was substantially the state of the wealthy? Malcolm can assure all and sundry that is not his experience of rootling through the family histories of quite humble stock.