Elizabeth at Half Changed World has a post up about divorce myths – in particular the myth that half of all marriages end in divorce. In the US, it turns out, around 40% of all marriages end in divorce (if you track divorce rates by duration).
Coincidentally, reading the paper today, there was an official sounding quote from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (ironically, a government agency which doesn’t seem to update new ABS statistics) stating that 40% of all marriages in Australia end in divorce (here is the source from their website). So there are a few myths here in Australia, too.
In Australia, it’s not hard to find the relevant page of the Australian Bureau of Statistics website, which states that
“Analysis of a net nuptiality table indicates that the expectation to divorce is increasing. If a newly-born group of babies was exposed to 1997-1999 rates of marriage, widowing, divorce, remarriage and mortality, 32% of their marriages would end in divorce. This is an increase on the proportion expected if 1990-1992 rates were applied (29%) and if 1985-1987 rates were applied (28%). “
In other words, around 30% (not 40% or 50%) of all marriages end in divorce, and that’s been the case for at least 15 years. Because I can’t help myself, I created a very crude marriage life table from the available ABS data (the percentage of marriages that are still intact at various durations) to check the statistic. I agreed within a few percent, which is pretty good, given I had to estimate a few bits of data I couldn’t find quickly.
From my stats (mainly based around divorces in 2003 – so assuming those divorce rates by duration of marriage prevail for all marriages), around 92% of all marriages survive 5 years, although separation (which will lead to eventual divorce) has happened by that stage for another 7%. Around 82% of marriages survive to 10 years, with another 5% who have already separated for eventual divorce. After that, separations, particularly, slow down substantially, with around 1% of marriages a year breaking up into eventual divorce. I ended up with around 33% of marriages eventually divorcing, which was pretty close to the ABS.
The spike in divorce rates in the mid-70s, when divorce was liberalised and for the few years afterwards, was assumed in many statistics, and hence by many people, to continue indefinitely. Myths that took hold then about divorce, and its prevalence, are pretty difficult to shake. But the statistics are available, for anyone who cares to look.