Valentine's Day is approaching quickly. Whatever emotion that might provoke in you, it’s a good opportunity to take stock of relationships in America. We've collected a ton of data over the last year on where and when people are getting together, getting married and splitting up. What follows is our data-driven overview of the state of our unions, in 25 maps and charts.
1-5. America’s relationship status: It's complicated. Nathan Yau of Flowing Data created these fascinating maps of America’s marital status, which show the counties with the highest proportion of married, never married, divorced, separated and widowed people. About half of the American population aged 15 years or older are married, and a substantial portion of them appear to live in middle America. The counties with the most single, separated and divorced people tend to be in the South.
6. How people find each other has a lot to do with proximity. In a survey by the Facebook Data Science team, about 15 pecent of individuals attended the same high school as their spouse. The map below shows the areas where people are more likely to marry someone from their own high school in red, and the areas where people are less likely to do that in blue. The figure is higher in more sparsely-populated areas and lower in cities.
7. For college graduates, about 28 percent of those who are married attended the same college, according to the Facebook survey. The arcs show colleges that have an unusually high number of married couples between them. Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah has by far the highest spouse ratio of any university in the U.S..
8. For everyone else, there's online dating. Online dating is becoming incredibly common: A survey by Pew in 2013 found that 11 percent of American adults and 38 percent of those who were "single and looking" for a partner had used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. Opinions about online dating are consistently improving, as shown in the chart from Pew below.
9. Online daters have to differentiate themselves from the herd -- or maybe not. The map below, from Leon Markovitz of Dadaviz, shows the most unique descriptive word that each state uses in their online dating profile on Match.com.
10-11. There's a gender imbalance among America's singles. Nearly every U.S. city has too many single young men. In the map below by Jonathan Soma, the size of the blue dots indicates the relative excess in each city of bachelors ages 20 to 34. Over the age of 35, however, the trend flops, with most cities having more single women.
12-15. Many single people are perfectly happy with their status. Throughout America, fewer people are getting married today, and those that are are getting married later, as these charts by Flowing Data show.
16. In fact, Americans are now relatively ambivalent about marriage, with a greater number of Americans saying it doesn't need to be people's highest priority, according to a 2014 poll by Pew Research Center.
17-18. For same-sex partners, however, marriage is anything but passé. In the last three year, the U.S. has also undergone a stunning shift in state policies toward same-sex marriage. As this Washington Post graphic shows, in 2012, only nine states and D.C. allowed same-sex marriage. As of Jan. 19, same-sex marriage was legal in 36 states and D.C.; now, it is legal is Alabama too.
19-20. Similar backgrounds and beliefs are still a strong basis for attraction. In a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, for example, almost a third of Americans said different religious beliefs present a major problem for a marriage or romantic relationship, while 17 percent said the same for different political views. For white Evangelical Protestants, religious compatibility was as important as sexual compatibility.
21. If you really can't find somebody, you can always try joining a band. A study published in the Journal of Creative Behavior asked 815 undergraduates to rank different types of creative activity by sex appeal. Responses were measured on a five-point scale ranging from 1, sexually unattractive, to 5, sexually attractive. Unfortunately for computer programmers, the results pretty much replicated the age-old stereotypes about sexiness.
22. There's a little more to liking someone than politics and guitars. After analyzing more than 34,000 real-world couples, dating site OkCupid claims to have found the most effective (but still appropriate) set of first-date questions to predict whether you and your date will stay together in the long term. According to their data, long-term couples are three times more likely to agree on the questions below on the right than two people paired by chance.
23. What happens next: Maybe you break up, or maybe you take it to the next level. Either way, we have lots of charts.
Lee Byron and David McCandless created the chart below, showing what will likely happen to the 3 million first-dates that happen around the world everyday, by compiling data from a Durex global sex survey, Facebook polls and the U.S. Census.
24. Byron and McCandless also charted the likelihood of a breakup by time of year using Facebook mentions of break-ups. Beware the sharp climb after Valentine's Day.
25. It can be easy to get jaded, especially around Valentine's Day, but a lot of couples make it through. Here's one happy story told through data.
A self-described “generic 28-year-old male” wore a heart rate belt during a recent trip to Rome where he proposed to his now-fiancée. The left-hand axis in the chart below shows his heart beats per minute over a 40-minute period that included walking in the Coliseum, eating ice cream, the proposal, and finally chilling out on a bench.