Divorce rates

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.

  6 comments for “Divorce rates

  1. Ellyn
    July 31, 2007 at 5:55 am

    There is a funny new book that proposes a solution to curtail the divorce rate. It is called “Mama Peavy says, ‘Women, It’s OK to Marry an Ugly Man'” by Mary R. Butler. The book gives these five reasons why marrying an ugly man is the right thing to do and why people will be more happier in marriages that will last longer.

  2. July 31, 2007 at 7:07 am

    I sometimes watch movies that show marriages as they were 50 or more years ago. Of course, that was 50 years ago and these are movies, but I think one of the reasons we see such a high level of failure (40%, 50% or whatever) is the lack of respect we have for each other as people. I have just gone through this – now I am a statistic. And the one thing I still cannot believe is now poorly people treat each other – in general – let alone in marriage.


  3. J
    August 9, 2007 at 6:48 am

    Whatever. Fidelity is a myth among humans for the overwhelmingly large majority. Even if a relationship doesn’t end in “divorce” doesn’t mean your wife isn’t banging a coworker or your hubby doing the same. People are sleazy and should never be trusted. They are chemically/emotionally driven, not driven by law and principle. That’s the culture we’re being raised on so, expect more of it. I wouldn’t be suprised if the divorce rate drops even lower in the future as people become so used to these things they don’t even do anything about it.

  4. September 4, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    I think it’s more on a culture issue aside from the fact that it has been allowed in some countries. Some people think that it is already a trend in their place. That is why some countries are having a high divorce rate compared to others. Check this divorce rate site by country. http://www.divorceguide.com/divorce-rates/divorce-rates-by-country.html

  5. Buster Keaton
    October 6, 2007 at 4:39 am

    Most statistics and studies on the subject are biased and flawed, and many researchers do have a political agenda.

    Marriage stability depends mostly on ACCESS to ressources for BOTH partners.

    FACTS :

    Married men and women of the upper class divorce less.

    Married women and men of the bottom class divorce more.

    (…. mmm : for artists … this seems, empirically, a quite different question … as, by definition, their role consist in exploring and questioning social norms).

    This correlation between the structure of access to ressources has been confirmed by antropologists : even in traditional societies, if women can contribute as much as men to the well-being of the unit, divorce and remarriages are as common as in our society.

    Marriage or divorce is not a personal success nor a personal failure : it mostly depends on the status of the family to which the individual belonged and on the social environment in which he or she is living.

  6. December 4, 2007 at 4:58 am

    There are so many ways to stay away from divorce if that is what both parties want. There are ways to keep marriages healthy before anything happens, again, if both parties want it. Sometimes marriages just don’t work, not because either person was wrong or did something hurtful. There is also a lot of great information available to those who want more information to keep a marriage together, seperate, or to divorce. Divorce is a choice, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Nor should anyone stay in a marriage that is not going to work.

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