The US Divorce Rate Story

Researchers in the United States have come up with an estimate of 40 % to 50 % of first marriages ending in divorce and a higher figure of 60% for second marriages ending in divorce; most studies have shown a declining trend in divorce through the years and especially from the 1980s.

When we talk about the ‘Rate of Divorce’ or ‘Divorce Rate’, we are actually talking about the number of divorces that occur in any given population during a particular period. But, the term is often generically used to refer to the possibility of a given marriage ending in divorce. The US Census Bureau calculates the crude divorce rate as the number of divorces occurring per thousand population. But, this calculation includes the children and single adults who are not in danger of divorce. The refined divorce rate calculates the number of divorces per thousand women and includes only those people who are at risk of divorce and is preferred by social scientists and demographers.

While researchers in the United States have come up with an estimate of 40 % to 50 % of first marriages ending in divorce and a higher figure of 60% for second marriages ending in divorce; most studies have shown a declining trend in divorce through the years and especially from the 1980s. But, one needs to consider the complete picture and the fact that the rate of marriage is on the decline along with an increase in the rate of co-habitation and this was reflected in a study by Sheela Kennedy and Steven Ruggles from the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota, which went on to conclude that contrary to popular thought and in actuality, the rate of divorce in the US population was rising.

There has been a lot of debate regarding the reporting, calculation and misinterpretation of divorce data, for example it has been pointed out that the fifty percent divorce rate doesn’t reflect the divorce statistics of a particular group of people that had got married in a particular year.

The various variables which have been known to affect the rate of divorce include the race or ethnicity of the couple wherein studies have shown that interracial marriages are more likely to end up in divorce than same-race marriages. Gender is also considered to play an important role in interracial divorce equations. Other variables playing a role in rate of divorce are religion and its importance to the couple, Generalized Anxiety Disorder in one spouse, divorce in their family of origin, age of the couple when getting married, low education and income, abuse and timing of their first child.

According to the author Po Benson, divorce rates don’t consider the socio-economic factors of the period during which the divorce took place. For example, divorce rates plunged during the Depression because the Depression caused men to simply abandon spouses rather than go in for expensive divorces.

All States do not report divorces, but in the 2011 provisional data gathered by the National Marriage and Divorce Trends reveals that among forty four reporting States and D.C. the divorce rate is 3.6 per 1,000 population.

The report ‘Marital Events of Americans: 2009’ revealed that the men and women of the South had higher rates of divorce in 2009 than those from other regions in the country, while those living in the North East had the least rate.

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