What is the Divorce Rate in the United States?


Unfortunately, many marriages in our culture end in divorce. And it appears that the number of marriages ending in divorce is increasing.

Be warned, however, that the often-quoted assertion that, “Over 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce” is NOT based on fact. It is a myth, an urban legend, an assumption based on a spurious interpretation of the available data.

What is the divorce rate in America? Surprisingly, it is not easy to get precise figures.

Why? First, because divorce – the dissolution of marriage – is a State matter, not a federal one. And some States do not report their divorces to the National Center for Health Statistics (“NCHS”). The list of non-reporting States includes one of the largest: California.

Second, it is almost impossible to study the marriage to divorce rate without falling into the trap of comparing apples to oranges. In my State, for example, it is true that, “On an average day in Colorado, there are 96 marriages and 56 divorces.”[1] To the untrained, that may appear to be a whopping 58% divorce rate! But to those who know how to dig deeper into the reality, they know the data do not support that conclusion. The number of divorces on any given day compared to the number of marriages on that same day does not give us an accurate picture of the overall, average divorce rate in Colorado.

When research is based on surveys rather than government statistics, it appears that the average national divorce rate in the United States is probably closer to one-third than half. Researcher George Barna’s most recent survey of Americans in 2001 estimates that 34 percent of those who have ever been married have ever been divorced.[2]

Having issued the warning to not over-state the truth, it is clear that divorce in our culture is becoming much more common. As George Barna points out,

There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage…. Interviews with young adults suggest that they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility. There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life.[3]

Regardless of what the actual divorce-to-marriage rate might be in the United States, the trend toward accepting divorce as an acceptable option to sticking it out is alarming.

            [1] Rocky Mountain Family Council, [http://www.rmfc.org/Radio/ColoradoDivorce.html] citing Colorado Vital Statistics 2005, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Health Statistics Section, 2006.

            [2] https://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/15-familykids/42-new-marriage-and-divorce-statistics-released#.U2QBg8cngnU [accessed May 2, 2014].

            [3] Ibid.

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