An example of a misleading chart of divorce statistics.
I’ve been reading for a long time, and I’m sure you have too, that the divorce rate in the US is fifty percent. You can see that clearly on the chart to the left. What I have taken this to mean is that, for the past several decades, the odds of a marriage succeeding have been 50/50. That my marriage, your marriage, all marriages have a one in two chance of making it.
Turns out that is wrong.
What got me started on this topic was a Freakonomics podcast called Why Marry? In that episode, one of the statistics that jumped out at me was that the divorce rate in the US has actually been declining steadily since it’s peak in 1981. The exact figures can be found here in USA Today. The podcast, and the USA Today article, both calculate the divorce rate per 1000 people. That number has dropped from 5.3 divorces per 1000 people in 1981 to 3.6 divorces per 1000 people in 2007. That’s a decline of one third. That is not the picture the media has been painting. Not by a long shot.
So where does the fifty percent number come from? It comes from taking the number of marriages in a given year and dividing it by the number of divorces. This is called the “crude divorce rate,” and that is the number we keep hearing about. The current marriage rate in the US is 6.8 per 1000 people. Divide that by the divorce rate of 3.6 per 1000 (it’s held steady since 2007), and you get a crude divorce rate of 53%.
The problem the crude divorce rate is that it fails to consider that the people getting divorced in a given year were not married in the year they were divorced. It is skewed because fewer people are getting married now than in years past, and those who do are getting married later. The crude divorce rate, therefore, is skewed high by a glut of older marriages. It shows a higher odds of divorce than actually exists.
Divorce is not as common as I have been led to believe. If you are thinking about getting married, and this statistic scared you off, please rethink it. Being married to Chickpastor has been the greatest blessing of my life. Don’t let a misleading statistic keep you from enjoying the great blessing of a good marriage.