Divorce rate lower than we thought?


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There is some suspect stuff in here that I'd have to follow up on.

The 50% statistic was derived by a series of years where there were twice as many marriages each year as there were divorces. If such a trend continued in the long term, rudimentary arithmetic would say half of all marriages fail. That doesn't take into account other important factors such as how long a typical marriage lasts before divorce and people with serial divorces.

But I'm confused by the book's author's claim that 20-25% of marriages end in divorce, but 80-ish percent of marriages are happy. That suggests that marriages are either happy, or they are so miserable the partners divorce. There is no room there for unhappy marriages that don't divorce. I know of no reason to deny the existence of such marriages.

I also find the claim that Christian marriages have the lowest divorce rate to be pretty suspect. I seem to remember reading that non Christian religious minorities-primarily Chinese and Muslims-rarely divorce, in large part because of social pressures.

Not having read the book, I can't really give a full critical review, but I've seen a few reviews of the book and the general concensus is that the author adequately made a case that things aren't as bad as we've thought. I suspect the author of the article, however, has read a little more optimism into his interpretation than is warranted.

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I sort of assumed the happy marriage satistic would exclude those who are divorced. Iee 20 to 25 percent divorced and of those remaining married 80 percent are happy. No?


That might be what they were alluding to.  If that's the case, then somewhere between 60% and 64% of all marriages (ie, any marriages that ever existed) are 'happy.'  That's a little more believable, but I think there are quite a few more shades of gray there than "60% are happy, 20% are unhappy, and 20% are divorced."


It's an elusive thing to measure in basic statistics though.  The "50% of marriages end in divorce" glosses over a lot of nuance.  For instance, should we really consider a marriage that lasted 30 years before divorce to be the same as one that lasted 2 years?  as one that lasted 3 months?  What about the marriage that ends because a woman finally gets up the courage to walk out on her abusive husband after 10 years?  Is that really the same thing as a divorce that happens after 15 years because of an affair?


On the flip side, claiming that 60% of all ever-marriages are happy over simplifies several issues as well.  It isn't uncommon for men who have had affairs to report that they are happy in their marriages.  So a 'happy' marriage isn't necessarily a healthy or a thriving marriage.  


while I'm rambling, I don't know where the notion that "most marriages are miserable" comes from.  I've never heard that before, but that could be a factor of my social circles.  I would have guessed that it was an extension of "if 50% of all marriages end in divorce, some of those that didn't must be unhappy."  That extrapolation relies on a flawed understanding of what the 50% statistic represents to begin with.  But if someone can provide any kind of academic source for the origin of the belief that most marriages are unhappy, I'll take a look at it.

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More context (I know, I know...more more more...but I'm intrigued)


Marriage rates per 1,000 by state

Divorce rates per 1,000 by state


If you look at Alabama, at the top of each list, the marriage rate in 2011 was 8.4, and the divorce rate was 4.3.  Extending that trend, it's easy to conclude that about 51% of all marriages performed in Alabama eventually end in divorce (please see my caveats in previous posts...I'm not saying this is the best way to look at it, but it's the easiest way to look at it).


Now, before anyone gets excited that Utah has 8.6 marriages and only 3.7 divorces (43%) keep in mind that Nevada has 36.9 marriages and only 5.6 divorces (15%).  This is a reflection of the fact that these metrics show the number of marriages performed (probably by a count of completed marriage licenses) and the number of divorces performed in each state.  It doesn't take into account the state of residence of those getting married.  Likewise, a lot of the marriages performed in Nevada get divorced elsewhere.  I'd imagine there's a similar effect in Utah, with a certain number of marriages happening at BYU ending in other states.  


This is where people likely draw the conclusion that religious marriages fare no better than non-religious marriages.  If you look at these statistics and compare between 'religious' regions and 'secular' regions, the differences aren't all that meaningful.  But again, that isn't really a way to look at this that allows you to see all the nuance and messiness in the data.

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