Divorce Statistics

In the 1950s when many marriages were starting out in the suburbs after World War II, the divorce rate was rising, but not a major concern. Flash forward ten years to the 1960s, and that dramatically changed. From 1960 to 1980, the divorce rate more than doubled -- from 9.2 divorces per 1,000 married women to 22.6 divorces per 1,000 married women. In other words, while less than 20% of couples who married in 1950 ended up divorced, about 50% of couples who married in 1970 did. Further, about half of the children born to married parents in the 1970s saw their parents split apart, compared to only about 11% of those born in the 1950s. Now, despite the many blaring headlines about the stars and celebrities divorces, the divorce rate has been holding steady. According to the latest Center for Disease Control (CDC) report, for the 12 months ending in June, 2009, the rate is 3.4 divorces per 1000 population. This can also be expressed as 0.34%; or since there are two people in every divorce, 0.68% of the entire population got divorced during that 12-month period. Why do some reports say that divorce is at 40% or 50%? Divorce rates, can be deceptive, because they are sliced and diced with different populations, such as age groups, first or second marriages, and states. As for how to keep divorce rates steady or lower? The verdict is still out in left field.

What exactly is the divorce rate? According to the online Encyclopedia.com, "divorce rate" is a divorce-rate "a measure designed to provide information on the comparative propensity to divorce in different populations." The rough annual divorce-rate is calculated by dividing the amount of divorces occurring within a population over the year, by the average or mid-year population for that same year, expressed times 1,000. Yet, this measure does not take into account the age-structure of populations and thus the population at risk. A more refined measure divides the number of divorces by the number of marriages in a given year times 1,000.

The divorce-rate is often seen as a gauge of the amount of societal stress.

Encycylopedia.com reports that in early American history, no divorces were reported, because there was no legal way that a couple could end their marriage. In 1701, couples in the state of Maryland had the right to divorce; in South Carolina, they did not have this right until 1949. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1900 the rate of divorce for males was 84 per 100,000 and 114 per 100,000 for women. This number rose steadily throughout the 20th century. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the number was at 489 per 100,000 for men and 572 per 100,000 for women. After World War II, the divorce rate continued to increase to 1,070 per 100,000 for men and 1,373 per 100,000 for women in 1950. It was in the 1970s that the numbers started making headlines. This was also when the first no-fault divorces were allowed. In addition, the U.S. was going through a major societal change with women's rights. Previously, anyone wanting to end their marriage had to prove allegations of adultery or cruelty. Within a decade, by 1980, divorce rates for men had grown to 4,539 per 100,000 for males and 6,577 per 100,000 for females. According to the most recent statistics gathered by the United States Census Bureau (2000), the divorce rate for men was 9,255 per 100,000 and 12,305 per 100,000 for women.

The U.S. Census Bureau states that that there were approximately 2,230,000 marriages in 2005, which was a decline from 2,279,000 in 2004, despite the fact that the population increased 2.9 million over this same time. The divorce rate in 2005 per 1,000 people was 3.6,

which was the lowest rate since 1970. It went down from 4.2 in 2000 and from 4.7 in 1990. The peak was at 5.3 in 1981. In 2005, the marriage rate per 1,000 was 7.5, a decrease from 7.8 in 2004. Nevada had the highest divorce rate in 2004, or 6.4 per 1,000, with Arkansas a close second with 6.3, and then Wyoming at 5.3. On the other end of the spectrum was the District of Columbia with the lowest reported divorce rate of 1.7, followed by Massachusetts at 2.2 and Pennsylvania at 2.5.

According to the State of Our Unions 2005 (National Marriage Project), a report published by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, only 63% of American children grow up with both biological parents. This is the lowest figure in the Western world. As of 2003, 43.7% of custodial mothers and 56.2% of custodial fathers were either separated or divorced.

A 2002 report from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG, Bramlett and Mosher) demonstrates how divorce statistics differ depending on the populations being considered. The data focused on factors such as marriage, divorce, contraception, and infertility affecting pregnancy and birth rates and women's health. It was based on face-to-face interviews with

10,847 women who were between the ages of 15 and 44 in 1995, with the trend analysis based on data from 1973, 1976, 1988, and 1995. The NSFG report analyzed eight outcomes related to cohabitation and marriage: the probability that 1) a woman will marry for the first time; 2) an intact first premarital cohabitation will become a marriage; 3) a first premarital cohabitation will break up; 4) a first marriage will break up; 5) a woman whose first marriage has disrupted will enter a new cohabitation; 6) a separation from a first marriage will become a legal divorce; 7) a divorced woman will remarry; and 8) there will be a second marriage disruption.

According to the NSFG, divorce trends have appeared similar for non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black women, but black women have faced higher rates of marital breakup, lower rates of making the transition from separation to divorce, and lower rates of remarriage. Among white women, the increasing probability of first marriage breakup leveled off in the 1970s, but seemed to have continued rising for black women through the 1980s. This report also shows that certain characteristics are closely associated with the chances that a marriage will continue or break up. For instance, first marriages are less likely to break up and more likely to succeed if the woman grew up in a two-parent home, is Asian, was at least 20 years of age when married, did not have any children when she got married, and has a college education and more income and any religious affiliation.

Divorce numbers continue to change. For example, there are now more older women getting divorced (Gerrie). From 2002 to 2008, the Office of National Statistics estimated the number of divorced women over 45 jumped by a third. This is significant, since the overall divorce rate has decreased for the fourth year running at the same time. Thus, these older women in their 40s, 50s and 60s are going against the trend. On the other side of the coin, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 60% of couples who marry between the ages of 20 and 25 are destined for divorce. Younger people are more likely to go into marriage with the expectation that the other person is going to fulfill them. Older individuals are probably a little more experienced and more realistic, because many of them have had a number of relationships and are less prone to believe that a relationship is going to meet their needs.

The divorce rates in the United States still are much higher than other countries, yet relatively the news is good. The recession appears to be encouraging couples to remain together (Bartlein). The divorce rate is at its lowest level in three decades years and the CDC says the number of divorce filings have fallen or at least remained roughly the same in every single state in the 2006-2008 period, which includes the recession. This is even more significant considering that the U.S. population keeps on growing. Further, divorce filings have dropped by one-third in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. These are Northeastern states that are suffering from heavy exposure to the financial industry that led the present financial problems. It seems adds Bartlein, although finances is the number one issue that couples argue about, it seems they disagree more about how to spend it than the lack of it. Actually, part of the trend to remain together may be a reality check of finances and how costly a divorce will be in the long-term. It is much less expensive supporting one household than two.

Does this mean that if and when the American economy gets better that the number of divorces will rise again? What can be done to keep the numbers at their steady rate? There are a number of reasons are frequently associated with divorce, including finances, noted previously (Lawyer Source). Others include poor communication, lack of commitment, dramatic changes in priorities,…