Maggie Gallagher

The first clue is to look at the marriage rates: In 2001, Massachusetts had a lower-than-average divorce rate (2.4 per 1,000 residents, compared to a national average of 4 per 1,000 residents). But it also had a lower-than-average marriage rate: 6.4 per 1,000 residents vs. 8.4 in the national average. Texas was the exact opposite: a higher-than-average crude divorce rate and a higher-than-average marriage rate.

Hmm. I smell a demographic rat. People in the United States, on average, marry in their mid to late 20s, and half of all divorces take place in the first seven years of marriage. Marriage and divorce are thus both disproportionately a young person's game. The more young people in a state, the more marriages and divorces.

Could this explain part of the divorce divide? Yup, at least a little bit. According to Census data, about 22 percent of Massachusetts residents are 55-plus, compared to 17 percent of Texans. Red states tend to be younger than blue states overall.

Notice something else about the great red-blue divorce divide: Red states, especially the Bible Belt South, have lots of minorities (and minorities have higher divorce rates, in part due to lower socioeconomic status). Yup. That's a big part: Massachusetts may be blue, but it isn't very black. It has only half as many African Americans as Texas (5 percent vs. 11 percent). Add in the Latinos, and it's no contest: In 2000 just 12 percent of Massachusetts' citizens were black or Hispanic, compared to 44 percent of Texans.

Enough of these parlor games. Can we agree? Some of my best friends are from blue states. Most blue-staters are perfectly nice people with good personal values. And divorce rates are not just a red-state problem.

And oh, by the way, as an election issue, sex sometimes does trump war. Ask President Bush.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.