Why marriage is more stable

March 26, 2010

“Marriage is more stable than cohabiting”, reports the Daily Telegraph, accurately summarising a report from the Office for National Statistics.

The usual rent-a-quote right winger is then lined up to say how this proves the Tories are right to give tax breaks to married couples, etc.

However, what is overlooked in the article’s analysis (though referred to) is that two-thirds of co-habiting couples go on to marry. That is, marriage is (for co-habitees) a way of continuing to be a stable couple. But this is not a symmetric operation – married couples never (or very, very rarely) change from being married to co-habiting.

It is this fundamental asymmetry which accounts for the prevalence of married over co-habiting couples; there is an entropic movement to the ‘phase state’ of marriage.

Nowhere does the survey indicate that marriage is either morally or societially preferable, despite what the moral agenda of the Telegraph would have us believe.

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