As Marriage Rates Decline, So Do Divorce Rates

Something I bumped into this afternoon made me curious, so I dug up some statistics on marriage rates in the last decade and the data’s quite interesting, actually. According to the Centers for Disease Control even as the population of the United States has steadily grown, both the marriage rate and divorce rate have declined.

In 2000, there were 281.4 million people in the United States, and 2.3 million marriages. That converts to a rate of 8.2 marriages per 1000 people. Meanwhile, 944,000 divorces transpired, a rate of 4.0 per 1000. Move ahead to 2012 and the overall population jumps up to 313.9 million while marriages actually declined to 2.13 million, a rate of 6.8 per 1000. Divorces in 2012? 851,000, or 3.4 per 1000.

Go back further, and in 1975 the Department of Health and Human Services reported that “In 1973 the marriage rate declined for the first time in 15 years. The rate was 10.9 per 1000, down 0.9 percent from the 1972 rate of 11.0 per 1000.” And in 1976, the CDC reports that the divorce rate was 4.5% higher than in 1975, a national divorce rate in 1976 of 5.0 per 1000.

The trends are also really interesting, as shown. First, look at how all those GI’s coming home from WWII caused a massive spike in divorces:

Divorce Rate, 1920-1976

Makes me sad for those soldiers, but they say that war changes a man, and I expect there were a lot of hometown sweethearts who weren’t so happy with that change as the war evolved and so did their husbands.

And then there’s the free love of the 60s. Look what that did to divorce, a huge spike that, as you can see in the next graph, didn’t slow down until the recession of the early 1980s:

divorce rate, 1960-2007

Makes me wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t had the recession. The good news is that if we projected to 2012, the divorces per 1000 is 3.4, so it continues to decline. The problem is, so is the marriage rate, and that’s perhaps even more troubling:

marriage per 1000 people in the usa

You can project the trends when you realize that the 2012 marriage rate per 1000 is 6.8, a rate that actually would drop the data point below the bottom axis of the graph above. In ten years? In twenty?

2 comments on “As Marriage Rates Decline, So Do Divorce Rates

  1. Well researched and very interesting Dave. Thanks for putting that together. I passed it along to the group I belong to: Collaborative Divorce Professionals of Boulder County. I’m sure they’ll be interested.

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