The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Want to marry a doctor? You’re probably too late.

BloombergBusinessweek has a fun breakdown of which occupations have had the highest shares of people who are married from 1950 to 2010, based on data from the Census Bureau.

While engineers, mathematicians and scientists today are (unfairly) stereotyped as awkward nerds who don’t know how to interact with the opposite sex, in 1950 they were among the occupations most likely to be married. Today, the most commonly conjugated occupations are instead more often medical professionals with doctorates, starting with dentists (81 percent of whom are hitched):

Occupations in which people are most likely to be married, 2010
1) Dentist
2) Chief executive
3) Sales engineer
4) Physician
5) Podiatrist
6) Optometrist
7) Farm product buyer
8) Precision grinder
9) Religious worker
10) Tool and die maker

There are a few likely explanations for why people who take the title “Dr.” occupy so many of the top slots, besides the fact that every Jewish mother considers them highly marriageable.

One is that marriage rates are strongly correlated with income, and docs tend to have both high income and stable earnings. One analysis, for example, found that nationwide, doctors are more likely than any other profession to be in the top 1 percent of earners; about one in five doctors lands there. Another might reflect the age composition of these workers compared with others: People are getting married later in life now, and by the time you get to officially call yourself “Dr.” you’re likely to be older because you’ve been in training for so long. That seems unlikely to be the whole story, though. I also wonder whether there’s something about the personalities or cultural backgrounds of people most likely to become doctors that also orients them toward settling down. Given how early in life would-be doctors have to start preparing for their future careers, perhaps they are more milestone-focused more generally.

BloombergBusinessweek also crunched the numbers for divorcées. Turns out that in 1950, many of the occupations whose members were most likely to end up divorced were creative or artistic ones (artist, writer/director, dancer, designer, writer), which perhaps reflects the communities that were most accepting of divorce at the time. In 2010, the occupations with the highest divorce rates were predominantly in manufacturing or other areas that have been subject to downsizing (drilling machine operator, knitter textile operative, force operator, winding machine operative, postal clerk). This seems to support the idea that economic stability is a good predictor of marital status. (Marital stability and family structure, in turn, are also believed to reinforce economic stability and success.)