This morning, NewsBusters' Mark Finkelstein reported (here) how CBS anchors yucked it up over a front-page story in today's New York Times that blared, "51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse." This study is nothing to laugh at. It's incredibly misleading, if not dishonest.
The Times got their numbers from the Census Bureau's new American Community Survey, which surveyed "117 million women over the age of 15." Wait a minute. "Over the age of 15"?
Is it really a surprise that millions of 15-20 year-olds are "living without spouse"? It shouldn't be. In addition to several cultural factors (some of which the Times touched on), the age of consent in the United States averages just over 16 years of age. In several states, including California, it's 18.
By the way ... How often would the Times label a 15-year-old as a "15-year-old woman" (emphasis mine)? Twice, as it turns out, since 1981. (One is in a 1981 travel article on China; the other is in a 1987 sports piece on diving results.) Meanwhile, the term "15-year-old girl" (emphasis mine) returns 756 results in the Times' archive going back to 1981. (And in a number of the articles, the words are used more than once.)
Also, the Census survey's "Data Profile Highlights" page simply refers to "Female, Now married, except separated (population 15 years and over)," not "women," as the Times puts it. In addition, the Times took the added measure of deducting 2.4 million women who were married but "said their husbands were not living at home for one reason or another." So if a woman's hubby works overseas for much of the year, she wasn't counted as "living with spouse." Is your husband serving in the military in another country? It looks like you weren't counted either. Although the Times acknowledges such scenarios, it didn't stop them from using the deduction to get that nice-looking "51%" result they touted.
And, finally, for what it's worth, 1996 census report on marriage and divorce (pdf file) stated that "nearly everyone marries" (at least once during their lifetime).
Misleading. New York Times.
(Need I say that the Times piece took a very positive tone towards these "women without spouse"? Of course not. It goes without saying.)