Doom and gloom and the amount of marriages: Do you need to be in the top 20% or not

The 20% heuristic of being in the top amount of men who get the most attention, sex, marriage, and so on has been going around for a while. For attention, this is genuinely verified by the OKCupid blog and other studies where women find only about 20% of profiles above average and the rest below average.

However, does that apply to everything including marriage or is that an incorrect extrapolation?

I’ve discussed before why I think this is a wrong extrapolation which causes an extensive of doom and gloom, so let me cover the statistics for this.

Never married data and predictions

First, Dalrock’s analysis of the Census data from 2017 show approximations of trendlines in the 40-44 and 45-49 year old women’s age groups.

We should note that pretty much all the 30-34, 35-39, and 40-44 are ticking up over time. By 2021 we should expect the never married 40-44 to be in the 13-14% range or so, which an estimate of never married by 45 is probably solidly in the 15% range or so. Note the top chart is all women whereas the bottom chart is white non-hispanic women.

This means about 85% of all women by 45 will be married at least once (“ever married”) while 15% are “never married.” Since some men who were married and divorce remarried marry never married women more than divorced women married never married men, the true percentage of men who are never married are about 2-5% less than never married women. Thus, we would expect about 80-83% ever married men and 85% ever married men (or 17-20% never married men and 15% never married women)

Pew’s research into trendlines corroborate this data, estimating by 2030 there will be about 25% never marrieds in the 45-59 age range. The above data estimate around upticks of about 1% per year which goes with this.

This also agrees with my analysis 3 years ago when I looked at some different articles which estimate 25-30%.

Divorce data contrasted with never married data

It is now clear that the divorce rate in first marriages probably peaked at about 40 percent for first marriages around 1980 and has been declining since to about 30 percent in the early 2000s. This is a dramatic difference. Rather than viewing marriage as a 50-50 shot in the dark it can be viewed as having a 70 percent likelihood of succeeding. But even to use that kind of generalization, i.e., one simple statistic for all marriages, grossly distorts what is actually going on.

The key is that the research shows that starting in the 1980s education, specifically a college degree for women, began to create a substantial divergence in marital outcomes, with the divorce rate for college-educated women dropping to about 20 percent, half the rate for non-college educated women. Even this is more complex, since the non-college educated women marry younger and are poorer than their college grad peers. These two factors, age at marriage and income level, have strong relationships to divorce rates; the older the partners and the higher the income, the more likely the couple stays married. Obviously, getting a college degree is reflected in both these factors.

Of course, this has its flip side, that the women who marry younger and divorce more frequently are predominately black and Hispanic women from poorer environments. The highest divorce rate, exceeding 50 percent, is for black women in high-poverty areas. These women clearly face extraordinary challenges and society would do well to find ways to reduce not just teen pregnancies but early marriages among the poor and develop programs that train and educate the poor. Those will not only delay marriage but provide the educational and financial foundation required to increase the probability of a marriage being successful. Early marriage, early pregnancy, early divorce is a cycle of broken families that contributes significantly to maintaining poverty. The cost to our society is enormous.

Here is some additional data about divorce in first marriages before moving on to the limited data available about second marriages. Divorce rates are cumulative statistics, i.e., they don’t occur at a single moment in time but add up over the years of marriage and do so at different rates. After reviewing numerous sources, it appears that about 10 percent of all marriages end in divorce during the first five years and another 10 percent by the tenth year. Thus, half of all divorces are within the first ten years. (Keep in mind this is mixing the disparate college vs. non-college group rates.)

The 30 percent divorce rate is not reached until the 18th year of marriage and the 40 percent rate is not reached until the 50th year of marriage!

Generally speaking, the true first marriage divorce rate is probably somewhere in between 30-40%. It’s hard to tell the current percentage because although divorce rates have continued to drop over time, the marriage rate has also continued to drop. I haven’t found any sources that analyze both together and the data is fairly newer anyway so it wouldn’t provide us with a ton of more significance given that the older marriages that are divorcing or not divorcing are more important to the data to see the longevity.

If we use the current 85% ever married statistic, this means that range of people divorcing is approximately:

  • 85% * 30% = 25.5% at the low
  • 85% * 40% = 34% at the high


  • 85% – 25% = 60%
  • 85% – 34% = 51%

51-60% of Americans will never divorce. This is much higher than most people who know that 20% of the men are above average think.

Edit: If you regularly attend Church and call yourself a Christian it’s 30% and if you don’t regularly attend Church and call yourself a Christian it’s 40%.

Incorporating sexlessness marriage data into the ever married and divorce data

I’ve actually covered this topic before too, so let’s look at some of the data.

Sexless marriage and other relationship statistics

A few years back, some of us as SSM’s were speculating how many marriages were actually sexless and/or unhappy even though they stayed together. I found some stats after stumbling onto a wiki about it.

A sexless marriage is a marriage in which little or no sexual activity occurs between the two spouses. The US National Health and Social Life Survey in 1994 (Laumann et al. 1994) found that 2% of the married respondents reported no sexual intimacy in the past year. The definition of a non-sexual marriage is often broadened to include those where sexual intimacy occurs fewer than ten times per year, in which case 20 percent of the couples in the National Health and Social Life Survey would be in the category. Newsweek magazine estimates that 15 to 20 percent of couples are in a sexless relationship.[1] Studies show that 10% or less of the married population below age 50 have not had sex in the past year. In addition less than 20% report having sex a few times per year, or even monthly, under the age 40.[2]

It appears that ~20% of marriages are what we would call sexless (<10 times per year) or about once a month.

We don’t know how many of these marriages are going to end up in divorce. Some of these are headed for divorce for whatever reason. We don’t really know how much adultery or other factors are going on either.

Other data show similar qualities:

More than 7 times a week: 3%
7 times a week: 1%
6 times a week: 3%
5 times a week: 9%
4 times a week: 11%
3 times a week: 13%
2 times a week: 21%
once a week: 25%
once a month: 8%
less than once a month: 9%

Approximately 17% (once a month to less than once a month) are sexless. I would assume that most “once a weekers” are probably unhappy with that. The sex drive of men is typically higher than that of women, but women can become dissatisfied with lack of frequency as well.

We know that at the lowest 40% of marriages end in divorce. So if we assume that most of the sexless ~20% of marriages end in divorce, a large portion of those in the 25% once a week range are going to divorce as well. This doesn’t take into account the potential dissolution of marriages with more frequency sex that have other problems.

I would suspect many of the cases with the approximate “once a week” don’t actually do it “once a week” but are rather clustered together around a woman’s ovulation cycle. So maybe the week when said wife was ovulating. Otherwise, it’d just be another sexless marriage.

If you take the “once a weekers” with the sexless marriager, you get approximately 43% low sex marriages and 57% higher sex marriages. Not too far off from the regularly quoted divorce statistics.

Now, it’s true that some marriages don’t end in divorce because of the lack of sex in lieu of other issues (finances, children, disagreeable, and other factors) and some don’t end at all because of lack of sex, but I would suspect that in a lot of cases that sexlessness is a huge symptom of other things going on like a lack of respect of a wife for her husband. Remember that women initiate 70% of divorces and that number rises to 90% in college educated women.

Let’s take the low estimate that 50% of American marriages will not end in divorce while 35% end in divorce (which is 40% of the 85%). This generally correlates with the above that most of the sexless marriages eventually end up in divorce. We would generally expet that the majority of the marriages that never end in divorce (those 50%) will have a regular sex life as well. We might not necessarily say they’re happy given everything that can occur, but things are working well enough that the husband and wife are having regular intimacy at least 2+ times per week.


  • Overall, most Americans are still going to get married despite the obesity epidemic and the fallout of the consequences of feminism and demonization of masculinty. About 80-85% still get married by 45, and likely 75% will still get married by 2030.
  • Approximately 30-40% of first marriages end in divorce. This means that about 51-60% of Americans will never get divorced. If you’re a Christian and attend Church regularly, you raise up to 70%. This can be boosted more by various vetting and teaching and training likely upwards of 90-95%+.
  • Looking at sexlessness and it’s strong correlations with problems in marriage and divorce, we would expect that these 51-60% of marriages that are never divorced the majority of them are having sex 2x a week or more.

What does this data mean for men?

To be married and never divorced and likely have a solid sex life you only need to be in the top 50% or so. Obviously, it’s helpful to be in the top 20% to potentially have a better selection of women so you can vet for character better. However, the top 20% is not required, and the top 20% is often too narrowly defined.

For instance, one can be below average looks and below average height but have qualities that are top 20% that make up for it and have a happy and holy marriage. I’ve mentioned myself as one of those where I’m maybe average looks and below average physical stature but I am happily married to a godly woman who doesn’t deny me sex and follows my lead.

Most of the estimates I find beyond the top 20% of men too black pill in nature. It’s not the 10-20% of the men below the top 20% who need a lot of work to be successful (e.g. 30-40% of men). It’s a whole extra 30-40% of men that are doing “well enough” through no extra effort of their own who will never divorce and likely not be sexless. The top 50-60% of men.

The men within the bottom 40-50% have the opportunity depending how far they are down in the hole in terms of PSALM traits and masculinity to bring themselves up above the average man who is already way overweight and close to obese.

It appears that the major issue where most people are seeing disparities is most likely where they live and who they know. Lower income and lower education areas are more likely to have higher singleness (including single motherhood) while more middle class and wealthy areas are likely to have higher married rates. Several articles above mention the fact that such areas have higher divorce rates as well since stress about money is typically a #1 or #2 reason people divorce.

Overall, work on the things you can change, and minimize or don’t worry about the things you can’t.

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3 Responses to Doom and gloom and the amount of marriages: Do you need to be in the top 20% or not

  1. Sharkly says:

    I was once involved in an online discussion about the chances of a marriage blowing up, with a younger man who kept coming back to the point that even if the chance was only one in six, why would he play Russian Roulette with his life.

  2. @ Sharkly

    I was once involved in an online discussion about the chances of a marriage blowing up, with a younger man who kept coming back to the point that even if the chance was only one in six, why would he play Russian Roulette with his life.

    1/6 is 83% if I remember correctly. I agree. I wouldn’t take that bet.

    However, as I’ve said, I think the percentage can be raised much higher than that to 95%+.

    I believe either Cru or Navs have some divorce statistics where if both a husband and wife are actively involved in discipleship for Christ the divorce rate is somewhere in the 1-2% range.

    Aside from discipleship being what Jesus commanded (Matthew 28 – “make disciples of all nations”), that’s a good of reason as any to be actively involved in being discipled and discipling others if you are married.

  3. Pingback: Why do most societies have 90-95% marriage rates (at some points) | Christianity and masculinity

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