WOMEN have a better chance of being killed by a terrorist...


July 23, 1993

WOMEN have a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married after the age of 40.

This statistic caused a frenzy in 1986 when it was released in a Valentine's Day issue of Newsweek magazine. Newsweek cited a Harvard-Yale study which found that college-educated women who are 40 or over had a 1 percent chance of getting married.

The Associated Press circulated this item and it was printed in newspapers nationwide, turning up the sound of ticking on the biological clocks of women all over the country.

Movie directors joked about it, it showed up in various TV sitcoms and was quoted in the movie "Fatal Attraction."

Taken for truth in the movie "Sleepless in Seattle," it almost caused Annie (Meg Ryan) to marry the wrong man because she thought she was getting old and running out of time.

How accurate is the statistic? Not very. It came from Yale sociologists Neil G. Bennett and Patricia H. Craig and Harvard economist David E. Bloom, and was part of an unpublished study at the two universities. The statistic in question was removed from the study when it was revised and published.

U.S. Census Bureau demographer Jeanne Moorman found that college-educated women at 40 actually had a 23 percent chance at marriage, not 1 percent.

If women have a 23 percent chance of being killed by a terrorist, that would certainly be cause for a frenzy. They don't, though.

The chances of being killed by a terrorist are one in 2 million -- or 0.00005 percent. Pretty slim.

The Harvard-Yale statistic struck fear in women and sparked a theory that there is a man shortage.

No one seemed to pay attention to the Census Bureau when it found that the marriage rate had actually risen in the 1980s for college-educated women between 24 and 45.

Man-shortage rumors are circulating again, but women should realize that's exactly what they are -- rumors.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.