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The Census Bureau Takes a Hard Look at Valentine’s Day

| February 14, 2014
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A flower stand on Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley is all ready for Valentine's Day.

A flower stand on Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley is all ready for Valentine’s Day. (Patricia Yollin/KQED)

Anyone who thinks that love can’t be quantified should talk to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The numbers-crunchers in Washington have produced enough data and statistics about Valentine’s Day to obliterate any hint of a romantic tinge.

Still, the Census Bureau tries. In fact, it suggests quite a few places in the country that would be appropriate venues for Valentine’s Day observances, including Romeoville in Illinois, Valentine in Nebraska, Love Valley in North Carolina and Darling in Minnesota.

These revelations are part of the “Facts for Features” series produced by the Census Bureau, which covers about 15 themes a year – ranging from  the Super Bowl and hurricane season to the Fourth of July and Halloween.

Red-and-pink balloons could be found in North Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. (Patricia Yollin/KQED)

Although there are lots of facts and figures to wallow through, most are interesting and some are startling.

The Census Bureau reported that 69 percent of people 15 and older in the United States in 2013 had been married at some point in their lives. As of two years ago, 19 percent of them have been married twice and 5 percent three or more times. But 75 percent have tied the knot only once, countering the widespread notion that divorce is rampant.

Some of those unions have, in fact, lasted a long time. As of 2009, 6 percent of currently wed women had been married for at least 50 years. The median age for a first marriage last year was 26.6 for women and 29 for men.

To keep those marriages going, candy, jewelry and flowers are always useful, and the Census Bureau took a look at how those particular enticements have been doing.

The Bureau reported that California led the nation three years ago, with 122 manufacturing establishments that produced chocolate and cocoa — a $13.5 billion industry in this country in 2011. The state also was ahead of the pack in making non-chocolate confectionary products, with 56 businesses.

There were almost 23,400 jewelry stores in the United States three years ago. Last February, they sold an estimated $2.8 billion in merchandise. By comparison, there were about 15,300 florists in 2011. And last year alone, through October, the total value of fresh-cut roses amounted to almost $355 million.

So, it’s clear that the accoutrements of romance add up to big business, not that anyone would doubt it, especially this month. Equally unsurprising: In 2011, Nevada was the most popular state as far as places to get married, followed by Hawaii.

Beyond its usual outpouring of data, the Census Bureau even had something to say about where the day originated:

“Opinions differ as to who was the original Valentine, but the most popular theory is that he was a clergyman who was executed for secretly marrying couples in ancient Rome. In A.D. 496, Pope Gelasius I declared Feb. 14 as Valentine Day. Esther Howland, a native of Massachusetts, is given credit for selling the first mass-produced Valentine cards in the 1840s.”

“Facts for Features” covered Black History Month as well this February. Women’s History Month and St. Patrick’s Day are coming up in March. April appears to be completely uneventful, but May is the Census Bureau’s most prolific time of year, given Mother’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Older Americans Month and Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

Red-and-pink balloons could be found on Shattuck Avenue and on Vine Street in North Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto.

This is the window of a lingerie shop on Vine Street in North Berkeley. (Patricia Yollin/KQED)

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About the Author ()

Pat Yollin has written about all kinds of stuff, including wayward penguins at the San Francisco Zoo, organ transplants, the comeback of the cream puff, New York on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, a Slow Food gathering in Italy and the microcredit movement in Northern California. Her favorite stories from last year were an interview with George Lucas at Skywalker Ranch, a profile of Italy's consul general in SF, and a pirate Trader Joe's operation in Vancouver that prompted the grocery chain to sue -- and lose. Reach Patricia Yollin at pyollin@kqed.org.

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