The Nacilbupera Guzzle

Whoever examines with attention the history of the dearths and famines … will find, I believe, that a dearth never has arisen from any combination among the inland dealers in corn, nor from any other cause but a real scarcity, occasioned sometimes perhaps, and in some particular places, by the waste of war, but in by far the greatest number of cases by the fault of the seasons; and that a famine has never arisen from any other cause but the violence of government attempting, by improper means, to remedy the inconveniences of a dearth. (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations IV.5.44)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Rachel Maddow Misrepresents Massachusetts Divorce Statistics In Support of Same-Sex Marriage

In the above broadcast segment this week Rachel Maddow of MSNBC reports:

"...New government provisional statistics show that in 2008 Massachusetts had the lowest divorce rate in the country. Ta-Da! The rate of divorces in Massachusetts was 2.2 per thousand when gay people started getting married in Massachusetts. The rate of divorces per thousand is now down even further to 2.0 per thousand. That's the lowest divorce rate in the county. In fact Massachusetts divorce rates are now down to pre-WWII levels--1940. So awkwardly, turns out gay marriage is a Defense of Marriage Act."

Maddow's conclusion that gay marriage stifles divorce didn't maks much sense to us so we broke it down to see if she were correct and came up with the following four points with which we take issue:

Point #1: Maddow's conclusion that the MA divorce rate is 2.0 per thousand is false.

As Maddow premises without pause or caution for the listener, the 2008 Massachusetts divorce statistics are provisional. These statistics are published by the CDC and are found here. The graphic below is taken directly from table 2b near the bottom of the link page:

From this table, we gather that Massachusetts had 12,992 provisional divorces in 2008. The divorce rate is calculated by dividing that number into the population of MA from the 2000 census 6.3M and multiplying by 1000. The resulting divorce rate figure (12992/6.3M x 1000) is 2.o46 or rounded down to the "2.0 per 1000" as Maddow quotes.

The footnote #1 cautions: "Figures based on monthly counts and may be underreported." Indeed it cautions:

There is considerable variability among the states in the procedures that are used to submit the counts of marriages and divorces to NCHS and in the extent to which the states update their counts of marriages and divorces as new information is received. Therefore, counts vary in their completeness. Marriage and divorce counts, unlike other provisional data, may be updated after the end of a data year if final counts are provided by the state.

Thus the CDC, unlike Maddow's glaring omission, cautions in saying that the number could be larger, but that is the count they have so far. What is concerning is the huge disparity in MA divorces between the provisional December 2008 figure of 147 and the actual December 2007 figure of 1006--a difference of 859 divorces or reduction of 85% versus the prior year. No other state figures such a prominent decline for December year-over-year (check for yourself!) begging the questions:

Are the Massachusetts provisional divorces for December 2008 underreported?
If so, could the impact of underreported divorces impact the entire year?

Although we don't know for sure the answer to the first question, the second is answered with a resounding "yes." If the actual December 2008 divorces were, for example, equal to December 2007, the total number of divorces in MA would climb to 13, 851 (12,992+859) the MA divorce rate for the entire year would equal 2.2 per 1000--which is coincidentally, the same exact MA divorce rate Maddow correctly cites as the divorce rate before legalized MA same-sex marriage.

Point #1 concludes that although Maddow correctly cites the word "provisional" in her premise, her conclusion is flawed because the condition is dropped. Maddow could have correctly concluded "If the provisional statistics--which the CDC notes may be understated--are correct, the divorce rate in MA will drop to 2.0 per 1000."

Point #2: Divorce is slightly on the decline nationally

Let's examine the national divorce rate:

2004 = 3.7 (see CDC report here for 2004-2006 figures)
2005 = 3.6
2006 = 3.6 or 3.7 (measured two ways)
2007 = 3.6 (see table A2 here)
2008 = 3.5 (provisional)

A logical conclusion from this data is that divorce nationally has been on a small decline during the time since MA legalized same-sex marriage. All things equal, MA should realize a decline as well. In order to support Maddow's conclusion that MA same-sex marriage contributes to the decline of divorce rates, additional data would needed to show how MA declined more than other states.

Point #3: Massachusetts historically has the lowest divorce rate in the nation.

Maddow's "Ta-Da" fact that Massachusetts had the lowest divorce rate in the country for 2008 is trite news. In fact, it would be noteworthy "Ta-Da" if Massachusetts didn't have the lowest divorce rate. By examining historical statistics, MA is clearly stingy on divorces compared to any other state perhaps foremost due to the massive numbers of Catholics in the state. Legalized same-sex marriage has nothing to do with Massachusetts' 2008 divorce rate viz-a-viz other states.

Point #4: Massachusetts divorce rate actually increased after passage of same-sex marriage.

Again, by examining the CDC's historical statistics on Massachusetts' divorce rates we find the following divorce rates per 1000 population:

2004 = 2.2
2005 = 2.2
2006 = 2.3
2007 = 2.3

Thus we see that the divorce rate actually increased in 2006 and 2007 from its 2.2 level Maddow cites. But Maddow neglects to mention this increase and focus only on the 2008 number which is, as we stated (point #1 above), provisional. The latest non-provisional--and therefore wholly accurate--numbers is for year 2007 and indicate that while the country is seeing modest decreases in the divorce rate (point #2 above), Massachusetts is experiencing modest increases in the divorce rate!

In conclusion, could it be that Maddow, herself openly gay (wikipedia), has misrepresented the facts to support the gay agenda of legalized same-sex marriage? Is in reality the exact opposite happening that same-sex marriage isn't defending or preserving marriage but contributing to divorce? Because of blatant misrepresentations of fact such as this by Maddow, Nacilbupera does not rely on Maddow nor the MSNBC network for accurate reporting. But what say you?

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