Study: Divorce Rates Down, Marriage Rates Up


  • Divorce rates are down according to recent studies
  • Modern divorce data concepts didn't exist until no-fault divorce was introduced
  • Studies show marriage rates are up

Divorce statistics can often create an emotional reaction to those that view it as a negative.

In a recent episode of TruTV’s “Adam Ruins Everything,” host Adam Conover explained that divorce doesn’t mean a happy marriage is over. It means a bad marriage is over, and given the length of time that no-fault divorce has been available to those that need it, it is no wonder divorce rates in the United States are dropping rapidly, according a recent study from Bowling Green State University.

In 2015, the divorce rate was 16.9 divorces per 1,000 married women, which is a decrease from a divorce rate of 17.6 in 2014. That translates into 1,110,579 divorces in 2015.

From a geographical standpoint, Washington D.C. has held the highest divorce rate over the past two years, with 29.9 marriages per 1,000 married women, ending in divorce. Between 2014 and 2015, Wyoming experienced the greatest increase in divorce rate; up 88.1 percent and jumping in rankings from 41st to second.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Hawaii has the lowest divorce rate at 11.1 divorces per 1,000 married women in 2015 and the only state with a divorce rate under 12 divorces per 1,000 married women. Between 2014 and 2015, 30 states’ divorce rates fell, with Rhode Island (-34.0 divorces per 1,000 married women), Delaware (-30.3 divorces per 1,000 married women), and Maine (-29.7 divorces per 1,000 married women) having the greatest comparable falls in their previous percentages.

Historic facts:

From a numbers standpoint, the most modern concepts of divorce data did not start until 1969, when California passed no-fault divorce legislation, which allowed the spouse asking for a divorce to pursue one without having to prove that the other spouse did something wrong. After New York signed the concept into law in 2010, it became officially available in every state.

Because of no-fault divorce’s sudden availability, the divorce rate rose in the 1970s. By 1977, nine states had adopted the law, and by 1983, every state except for New York and South Dakota had no-divorce legislation available to them. This caused the numbers to rise into the 1980s, where it hit an all-time high at 22.8 divorces per 1,000 married women.

Prior to no-fault divorce, separation and divorce itself were difficult to pursue. Spouses were forced to charge one another with cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery or abandonment, in order to secure a divorce.

There also was a second option: waiting one year after a mutually-agreed separation. From 1787 when the first divorce law was passed in New York, until the Divorce Reform Law of 1966, adultery was the primary path in pursuing a divorce, even if that meant lying to a judge.

There were places that people with financial prominence could go to secure a divorce, such as Indiana in the 1800s, Nevada in the 1900s, or even Mexico in the 1960s, but for the most part, deception and perjury were considered the only way.

Much of the divorce statistics can be contributed to the rise in the later-in-life divorce rate. The divorce rate for 55- to 64-year-olds more than doubled from 1990 to 2012, and the rate for people age 65 and older tripled, according to Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research.

Weddings and marriages:

Additionally, another study from Bowling Green State University found that marriage rates were on the rise in 2015. There were 32.3 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women, a small jump from 2014’s rate of 31.9 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women. This resulted in 2,298,977 women married in 2015. In comparison with 1980, the marriage rate has decreased 47 percent.

Much of the cultural hype in marriage relates to the wedding ceremonies themselves. However, recent studies at Emory University have suggested that there are purchases and routines within the tradition that correlate with the likelihood of divorce.

According to the study, couples who dated for a minimum of three years prior to their engagement were 39 percent less likely to get divorced than couples who dated less than a year before getting engaged.

Data also suggests that the greater the number of people in attendance at the wedding is, the less likely it will end in a divorce. Honeymoons decrease the likelihood of a divorce by 41 percent. However, the more expensive the wedding is overall, the more likely it will end in a divorce.

While complicating finances through alimony, property ownership, and child custody, divorce isn’t inherently negative. The cultural perceptions and historical data regarding divorce continue to battle for society’s view on the concept, but for those facing impossibly difficult situations, it’s a comfort that can provide a new beginning.

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