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What the bride and groom's age and other factors say about a marriage's durability

What makes a marriage last? Some experts believe it's a number game, while others identify a handful of factors that may provide a wedded-bliss edge.

For starters, marry someone your own age or close to it, according to researchers from Emory University who used data on 3,000 married couples to examine why some marriages last and others fail. Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon looked at a range of factors for their report, "'A Diamond Is Forever' and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration."

A few weeks ago, doctoral candidate Randy Olson of Michigan State University used data from the research to create graphics depicting factors that impact marriage and divorce. This week, he released "part 2," which shows in graphic form some of the other factors.

He highlights the four big factors that seem to predict marital success: Have children with your spouse, be the same age, have the same educational attainment and stick together. As Zach Noble explains that last one in The Blaze, "the data (Olson) used showed a general steady decline in divorce likelihood: the longer you stay together, the better odds you’ll be together forever."

Olga Khazan summarized the early findings this way for The Atlantic: "You should date for three years before popping the question. Be wealthy, but don't be a gold-digger. Have a huge wedding, but make sure it's cheap. And whatever you do, don't skip the honeymoon."

Megan Garber, also of The Atlantic, brings readers up to speed on what's newer: "A one-year discrepancy in a couple's ages, the study found, makes them 3 percent more likely to divorce (when compared to their same-aged counterparts); a 5-year difference, however, makes them 18 percent more likely to split up. And a 10-year difference makes them 39 percent more likely."

She added that "once you enter large-gap territory — the 20-year difference, the 30-year difference — the odds of divorce are ... almost never in your favor." Shoe noted, however, that there will always be exceptions. There are couples who have large age gaps and marital longevity.

The thinking that half of marriages will bust up isn't quite right, anyway, according to New York Time's Dan Hurley. "The figure is based on a simple — and flawed — calculation: the annual marriage rate per 1,000 people compared with the annual divorce rate. In 2003, for example, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 7.5 marriages per 1,000 people and 3.8 divorces, according to the National Center for Health Statistics," he wrote. "But researchers say that this is misleading because the people who are divorcing in any given year are not the same as those who are marrying, and that the statistic is virtually useless in understanding divorce rates."

At its very highest rate, divorce has never exceeded 41 percent, he added.

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