Divorce Rates


Part of the Divorce Statistics Collection, from Americans for Divorce Reform
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NOTE: Newer information on the same topics is available on The Divorce Statistics and Studies Blog. But a lot of important, pre-2008 information is collected only on this site, the Divorce Statistics Collection. So you should check both this site and the blog.


Note: Statistics on WHY divorce rates increased are now on a separate page
So are Divorce Rates in families with children
Causes of Divorces

Non-U.S. Divorce Rates
Divorce rates for specific U.S. states and localities
Correlations of Divorce rates with other factors (e.g. religion, occupation, race, region)
Your Real Chance of Divorce
may be far less than 50%
Change Over Time in Divorce Rates
Length of marriage before divorce

Study of State Divorce Rates and Divorce Laws

NOTE: Newer information on the same topics is available on The Divorce Statistics and Studies Blog. But a lot of important, pre-2008 information is collected only on this site, the Divorce Statistics Collection. So you should check both this site and the blog.

**Links to other sites have been moved to the bottom of this page


THE DIVORCE RATES: Annual per capita, raw numbers, and the lifetime prediction

1. PER CAPITA ANNUAL. The last-reported U.S. divorce rate for a calendar year, available as of May, 2005, is 0.38% divorces per capita per year, the provisional estimate for the year 2005 from the National Center for Health Statistics. The annual divorce rate is 0.37 % for the "year" ending Nov. 30, 2004, given in the latest Monthly Vital Statistics Report .
When a rate for the entire calendar year 2004 is released, you can find it in the Vital Statistics Report for the year ending in December 2004, via this page. Later Vital Statistics Reports covering 2005 and later will be available via this page.

Notes on understanding this per capita rate:


U.S. Per Capita Divorce Rates Every Year 1940-1990

Per capita divorce rates 1990-2005:
1991, 0.47%
1992, 0.48%
1993, 0.46%
1994, 0.46%
1995, 0.46%
1995, 0.43%
1997, 0.43%,
1998, 0.42%,
1999, 0.41%,
2000, 0.41%,
2001, 0.40%,
2002, 0.38%
2005, 0.36%
(Mostly from NCHS, some from Census Bureau's Statistical Abstract of the U.S., which often differs from NCHS by 0.01%)
See also U.S. divorce rates and other vital stats from 1950 to 2001.

2. RAW NUMBERS. The Center has released total state and regional marriage and divorce numbers (not the same thing as rates) for the years 2000, 1999 and 1998.
The total numbers of U.S. divorces (excluding the non-counting states) reported finalized annually are 957,200 in 2000, 944,317 in 1999, and 947,384 in 1998.
The total numbers of U.S. marriages (including those states) reported celebrated annually are 2,355,005 in 2000, 2,366,623 in 1999, and 2,267,854 in 1998.
Chart of all states and regions from this report.

3. PROJECTION/PREDICTION. This is the Census Bureau's often-cited "50%" rate, the proportion of marriages taking place right now that will eventually divorce, which has since been revised downward to roughly 43% by the National Center for Health Statistics but was moved back up to around 50% by the Census Bureau in 2002, with even more ifs ands and buts than usual. Most recently, according to the New York Times, it has been revised downward to just over 40%.

One of the best explanations of what is an accurate prediction for this statistic, and of the limits of divorce statistics, is an April, 2005 New York Times article, "Divorce Rate: It's Not as High as You Think."

This kind of thing is probably the best estimate statisticians can come up with, but it is only a prediction of how many people currently entering their first marriages will ever get divorced. It is a very rough estimate even if current trends continue unchanged, but it is also subject to change if divorce becomes more or less popular or available. For a more detailed exploration of the nature of this and other divorce rates, see messages on "Divorce Statistics and Interpretation" by Scott Stanley and Paul Amato, November, 1998

Here is an excerpt from the Census Bureau report, with a link to the full report:

"The National Center for Health Statistics recently released a report which found that 43
percent of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years. The study is based on
the National Survey of Family Growth, a nationally representative sample of women age 15 to
44 in 1995. Bramlett, Matthew and William Mosher. "First marriage dissolution, divorce, and
remariage: United States," Advance Data From Vital and Health Statistics; No.323. Hyattsville
MD: National Center for Health Statistics: 2 1.

"Data in the Census report were collected from both men and women, age 15 and over, and a
different methodology was used than in the NCHS report.

"About 50% of first marriages for men under age 45 may end in
divorce, and between 44 and 52% of women's first marriages
may end in divorce for these age groups. The likelihood of a divorce
is lowest for men and women age 60, for whom 36 % of men
and 32 percent of women may divorce from their first marriage by
the end of their lives. A similar statistical exercise was performed in
1975 using marital history data from the Current Population Survey
(CPS). Projections based on those data implied that about one-third of
married persons who were 25 to 35 years old in 1975 would end their
first marriage in divorce.

"This cohort of people, who in 1996 were about 45 to 55 years old, had
already exceeded these projections as about 40% of men and
women in these ages had divorced from their first marriage. Current
projections now indicate that the proportion could be as high as
50% for persons now in their early forties."
Rose M. Kreider and Jason M. Fields, "Number, Timing, and Duration of
Marriages and Divorces: 1996", U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Reports, February 2002
, p. 18.

LINKS 43% of first marriages end within 15 years.
Red states have a divorce rate 27% higher than blue states.
75% of all divorced people re-marry, half of them within three years.
"For Richer or Poorer", Illustration By Sarah Wilkins, in January/February 2005 issue of Mother Jones. Quoted in a posting from Smart Marriages Listserv on Jan. 4, 2005.

65% of new marriages fail.
[This must be a misprint or out of context. It may mean 2nd or 3rd marriages]
Teresa Castro Martin and Larry L. Bumpass, "Recent Trends in Marital Disruption", Demography 26 (1989): 37-51. Cited on page 5 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

Length of marriage before divorce

Census Bureau: Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 2001 (Issued February 2005) reports that: Roughly 1 in 5 adults has ever
divorced; First marriages that end in divorce last about 8 years, on
average. http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-97.pdf

"Marriages are most susceptible to divorce in the early years of marriage. After 5 years, approximately10 % of marriages are expected to end in divorce - another 10 % (or 20 % cumulatively) are divorced by about the tenth year after marriage. However, the 30% level is not reached until about the 18th year after marriage while the 40% level is only approached by the 50th year after marriage."
Rose M. Kreider and Jason M. Fields, "Number, Timing, and Duration of
Marriages and Divorces: 1996", U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Reports, February 2002,
p. 18.

Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States.
Series Report 23, Number 22. 103pp. (PHS) 98-1998.
Download report at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_022.pdf
Among the findings in this report: unmarried cohabitations overall are less
stable than marriages.  The probability of a first marriage ending in
separation or divorce within 5 years is 20 percent, but the probability of
a premarital cohabitation breaking up within 5 years is 49 percent.  After
10 years, the probability of a first marriage ending is 33 percent,
compared with 62 percent for cohabitations.

TWO-YEAR ITCH INFECTS MARRIAGE
COUPLES watching out for the seven-year itch should be on their guard a lot earlier these days. According to research, they are far more likely to separate after about two years of marriage. One in 12 couples is heading for the divorce courts after 24 months - more than double the figure for seven years. From "TWO-YEAR ITCH INFECTS MARRIAGE" News Australia, By James Mills, June 22, 2004 Cited in a posting in the Smart Marriages listserv June 22, 2004. News Australia, By James Mills, June 22, 2004.

Change Over Time in Divorce Rates

The number of divorced people in the population more than quadrupled from 4.3 million in 1970 to 18.3 million in 1996, according to a Census Bureau report on MARITAL STATUS AND LIVING ARRANGEMENTS


"14% of white women who married in the 1940s eventually divorced. A single generation later, almost 50 percent of those that married in the late sixties and early seventies have already divorced. ... Between 1970 and 1992, the proportion of babies born outside of marriage leaped from 11% to 30%."
Amara Bachu, Fertility of American Women: June 1994 (Washington D.C.: Bureau of the Census, September 1995), xix, Table K. Cited on page5 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"According to the National Center for Health Statitics (1988: 2-5), the divorce rate rose from 2.5 per 1000 population in 1965 to 3.5 in 1970 to 4.8 in 1975."
"No-Fault Divorce: Proposed Solutions to a National Tragedy," 1993 Journal of Legal Studies 2, 15, citing National Center for Health Statistics, 1988, 2-5, cited by Thomas B. Marvell, Divorce Rates and the Fault Requirement, 23 Law & Society Review 544, n.4, (1989).

Divorce increased almost 40 percent from 1970 to 1975.
Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum, citing Statistics from National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Cited in Kenneth Jost and Marilyn Robinson, "Children and Divorce:What can be done to help children of divorce," CQ Researcher, June 7, 1991, pp. 353, 357.

The marriage rate has fallen nearly 30% since 1970 and the divorce rate has increased about 40%.
Ahlburg and DeVita, "New Realities," 4-12. Cited on page 5 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher


"In America, divorce used to be difficult to obtain and, usually, impossible without good reason: adultery, abandonment, abuse, alcoholism. In 1880, according to the historian Robert L. Griswold, one marriage in 21-fewer than 5 percent-ended in divorce. Over time, there have been peaks and valleys in the divorce rate, such as the period immediately following World War II, when returning soldiers found things rather different from how they had left them, or were themselves tremendously changed by war. "But beginning in the mid-1960s," writes Griswold, the divorce rate "again began to rise dramatically, fueled by ever-higher marital expectations, a vast expansion of wives moving into the work force, the rebirth of feminism, and the adoption of 'no fault' divorce (that is, divorce granted without the need to establish wrongdoing by either party) in almost every state." Griswold continues, "The last factor, although hailed as a progressive step that would end the fraud, collusion, and acrimony that accompanied the adversarial system of divorce, has had disastrous consequences for women and children.'"[Powell, D. (2003) Divorce-on-Demand: Forget about Gay Marriage- What About the State of Regular Marriage? National Review, v55 i20. Retrieved June 9, 2004 from Expanded Academic ASAP.]

The divorce rate among Americans older than 65 grew from 6.7 percent in
March 2000 to 8 percent four years later, according to U.S. census figures.
- DIVORCE ON RISE FOR OLDER PEOPLE
The Republican (Springfield, MA)
Sunday, November 26, 2006
By RONNI GORDON

Reconciliation after Separation
A sociology professor from Baltimore posted this citation on the FAMILYSCI listserv:
"The only statistic I have is the one cited in my marriages/families
textbook, but it may (or may not) be dated: "Approximately 10 percent of all
currently married couples (9 percent of white women and 14 percent of black
women) in the United States have separated and reconciled" (Wineberg and
McCarthy, "Separtion and reconciliation in American marriages," Journal of
Divorce & Remarriage 29, 1993: 131-46). If there's a more recent cite, I
haven't bumped across it yet."

Catholic Annulment Statistics:
"For the year 2002: of the 56,236 ordinary hearings for a declaration of
nullity, 46,092 received an affirmative sentence. Of these, 343 were handed
out in Africa, 676 in Oceania, 1,562 in Asia, 8,855 in Europe and 36,656 in
America, of which 30,968 in North America and 5,688 in Central and South
America."
>From "PRESENTATION OF INSTRUCTION ABOUT NORMS IN MARRIAGE CASES", VATICAN CITY, FEB 8, 2005 (VIS), posted at
http://www.vatican.va/news_services/press/vis/dinamiche/a0_en.htm


Note: Statistics on WHY divorce rates increased are now on a separate page
So are Divorce Rates in families with children
and Non-U.S. Divorce Rates
and Divorce rates for specific U.S. states and localities
and Correlations of Divorce rates with other factors (e.g. religion, occupation, race, region)
Polls | Legislation | Articles/Opinion | Quotations | Other family-related articles
Originally posted and maintained by Americans for Divorce Reform; now maintained by John Crouch. You can call me at (703) 528-6700 or e-mail me through my law office's web site.