What is the Truth About the Divorce Rate?

divorce rate
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There is still the general believe that first marriages end in divorce at a rate of approximately 50%. There are many researchers who have historically studied and are still doing so in an effort to establish the most accurate data on the topic.

The general consensus of the research tells us that the divorce rate is currently in the low 40% range. This rate does not include those permanently separated or living together but unhappy.

If we take all of the possible circumstances, we may be at that 50% number again. This figure would mean anyone who has legally married and is at some point during their lifetime either divorced, separated or miserable.

These statistics still sound awfully grim. We know that, ironically, these numbers are mostly ignored as the logical parts of our brain are “offline” when we are in love. Being in love, and believing you found “the one” is the primary reason people give for getting married in the first place. The lifetime marriage rate for individuals in the U.S. is still upwards of 90%.  In effect, we are still not rejecting marriage despite the bad odds.

Why Do Many Still Believe The 50% Statistic?

The divorce rate at one time was around 50%. This was a spike that occurred in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This uptick likely was a result of women entering the workforce, the feminist movement, women’s reproductive rights, and other variables.

 We must be mindful of the fact that cultural and societal trends impact both marriage and divorce. When this information was first reported, it was shocking for many, likely making it stick. Furthermore, it isn’t too far from the truth today.  

Why Don’t We Have Consistent and Accurate Numbers?

Measuring the divorce rate is a very complex and daunting task.

  Public records are relied upon. There is also no single common metric for measuring divorce as a variable. There are several variations of the divorce phenomenon. For example, measuring the number of people per one-thousand who divorce within a certain time period is different than measuring the number of people who divorce within a given length of time. All these metrics offer us information, but they will all not have exactly matching results.

We are also predicting future behavior based solely on past behavior, and that can be tricky. Besides, can researchers really be expected to follow a large group of people over the course of their entire life? This just isn’t feasible. Researchers strive to get as close as possible to accurate and reliable rates knowing there are factors that impact the numbers that must be considered.

What Are Some Other Related Statistics?

We know some interesting facts about what impacts the divorce rate:

  • The later you marry, the less of a chance you will divorce. It is most ideal to marry in your late 20’s.
  • Those with more education are less likely to divorce.
  • Those who are financially stable are less likely to divorce.
  • Most often, wives are the initiators of divorce. Therefore, a lower divorce rate may have something to do with women’s expectations and the way they are perceived if divorced. Given that divorce is so culturally prevalent now, no one bats an eye. This was not true in the 19040’s and 1950’s.
  • Gone are the “shotgun” weddings. A vast majority of people marry for love in our culture. If a woman were to get pregnant, she has several options to consider besides marrying the father of the baby.
  • There are more acceptable options for relationships than ever right now. Some do choose to stay single or never find the perfect match. Others opt to cohabitate even if the couple has children together.

What's The Bottom Line On Divorce Stats?

According to the Institute for Family Studies, we can conclude that the divorce rate for first marriages is at best around 40% - 45%. We can also conclude that the rate has been dropping for first marriages. It is also true that subsequent marriages have an even higher divorce rate than the 40% - 50% number. Bear in mind that these stats give us reason to explore why the divorce rate is so high.

We have good information on what contributes to a marriage ending in divorce as well as what helps make for a successful long term marriage