It's hard as hell to figure out the real picture of divorce in this country. Overall, divorce rates are going down, as would be expected as the boomers have aged and finally decided who they plan to die with. But the most important thing to understand about divorce is that the whole "50% of marriages end in divorce" thing is a myth.
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, or the Wiki
The problem is that the statistics that caused the concern were misread. In the 70s and 80s people were seeing twice as many people getting divorced as getting married and thought, holy shit the divorce rate is 50%! No one took into account the 15-20 year lag it takes many marriages to blow up, so as the boomers started getting divorced in the 70s-80s for the first time it looked like there was a major increase because of their population boom combined with their slightly higher rate of divorce. However, when one takes into account rates
of divorce the boomers represent only a minor increase in divorce rates to about 40% throughout the 80s with the percentage of marriages ending in divorce these days at around 30%.
And despite the buzz that divorce is at epidemic proportions, the NCHS report shows that the divorce rate has, in fact, been slowly declining since its perilous peak in 1981, when it reached a rate of 5.3 divorces per 1,000 people.
according to the data currently available, in 2000 the divorce rate dropped to 4.1, the lowest since 1972, and lower than it was when the Greatest Generation returned from World War II in 1946.
The Wiki article has a similar statement:
In the United States, in 2003 there were 7.5 new marriages per 1000 people and 3.8 divorces per 1000, a ratio which has existed for many individual years since the 1960s. As many statisticians have pointed out, virtually none of the marriages taking place in a given year are the same couples divorcing that year, so there is in fact no predictive relationship between the two annual totals. Nonetheless the claim that "half of all marriages end in divorce" became widely accepted in the US in the 1970s, on the basis of this statistic, and has remained conventional wisdom. Pollster Lewis Harris in his 1987 book "Inside America" wrote that "the idea that half of American marriages are doomed is one of the most specious pieces of statistical nonsense ever perpetuated in modern times."
To establish an actual divorce rate requires tracking and analyzing significant samples of actual marriages through decades, not an easy task. Recent US scholarship based on such longterm tracking, reported for example in the New York Times on April 19, 2005, has found that about 60 percent of all marriages that result in divorce do so in the first decade, and more than 80 percent do so within the first 20 years; that the percentage of all marriages that eventually end in divorce peaked in the United States at about 41 percent around 1980 and has been slowly declining ever since, standing by 2002 at around 31 percent; and that while in the 1960s and 1970s there was little difference among socioeconomic groups in divorce rates, diverging trends appeared starting around 1980 (e.g. the rate of divorce among college graduates had by 2002 dropped to near 20 percent, roughly half that of non-college graduates).
So my friends, why do I care? Why do I bother mentioning this issue even though it hasn't really been in the news lately? Well, for a couple of reasons. One is jackasses like Rush Limbaugh who bitch about family values, and say stupid shit like marriage should only be for procreation when he is a childless three-time divorcee visiting prositutes in foreign countries with illegal Viagra prescriptions. The second reason is, some guy wrote me an email and asked me what a give up map of divorce would look like. Well, here's your answer.
This is a map of the states with divorce rates greater than 4 per thousand (excluding California, and Indiana and using 2002-2003 data for 2 other states that didn't report in 2004), the national average is somewhere between 3.7 and 4.1 depending on who you ask or whether you throw an estimate of California's rate in since they haven't reported a rate since 1990. The other key thing to remember is that divorce rates are falling in all states, by about 10% since the 90s. So, if California were included today based on its 1990 statistics it would probably now be well under 4, so don't let that worry you too much.
All the same, look at where divorce is actually a problem, in a nice band across the bible belt. The states with the lowest divorce rates? Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin have divorce rates that range from 1.8-3.0 per 1,000. The blue states included are in just barely at around 4.1-4.3 per 1,000. The highest two are Nevada at 6.3 and Arkansas at 6.1, over three times the rate of liberal Massachusetts. And even more interesting is the Barna survey done in 1999
showed that of all religious groups, Baptists and non-denominational Christians were the most likely to get divorced, surpassing all those evil heathen religions, Catholics and atheists. And where do the Baptists live? Well, largely in the areas highlighted in the above map.
So, while the moral majority might like spending all their time telling others how to live, and determining who should be allowed to get married while passing stupid-ass covenant marriage laws, let's keep an eye on who really has the problem making marriages work (not to mention every other damn thing). Further, while they rail on about the myth of the 50% divorce rate, and how evil divorce is, let's think about what a world would look like without divorce. Unlike our delusional conservative friends, I don't want go back to when women would have to stay married to cheating, emotionally distant, and/or abusive man or face economic ruin. I think things are going just fine with marriage these days, especially in the blue states.
Source:Munson ML, Sutton PD. Births, marriages, divorces, and deaths: Provisional data for 2004. National vital statistics reports; vol 53 no 21. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2005. Census data from 2004 was used for rates from www.census.gov.