Divorce Rate Might Not Be as High as Most Think

divorce rate, divorce, Illinois Family LawyerAsk a random stranger how likely it is that a couple getting married today will eventually get divorced. Chances are, the stranger will answer that the couple has about 50 percent chance of divorce. The idea that half of all marriages end in divorce has somehow become solidly lodged in the consciousness of public opinion and it seems to be extremely difficult to shake. The actual divorce rate in the United States, according to many demographers, has never reached 50 percent, and as the divorce rate continues to fall as it has for several decades, it appears that it never will.

Overly Simplistic Estimates

Claiming that half of marriages end in divorce is a quick and easy talking point, useful for establishing social context for various political movements and groups. Some may use the number as an example of the eroding family structure, while others use it to demonstrate the need for supportive funding for low-income children and single parents. So where did the 50 percent number originate and why does it persist?

The most likely origin comes from relating two measurable, but unrelated, statistics in a given year: the per capita marriage rate and per capita divorce rate. In 2012, for example, the National Center for Health Statistics documented a marriage rate of 6.8 per 1,000 people in the United States and a divorce rate of 3.4 per 1,000 people. On the surface, this may seem that the divorce rate would be almost exactly 50 percent. Relating the two numbers, however, fails to account for the fact that almost none of the Americans getting divorced in 2012 were the same Americans getting married that year.

As each new year’s statistics are compiled, the numbers continue to follow a similar trend. The divorce rate per capita seems to be almost exactly half of the marriage rate per capita, and psychologically, it can be difficult for many to realize these calculations are not really telling the same story.

More Accurate Calculations

As the divorce rate is inevitably a product of social evolution, a homogenized cross-section can not truly depict the state of marriage and divorce in the overall population. Instead, many researchers insist that it is more helpful to identify the divorce rate among specific groups, such as all Americans married in the 1990s. A recent New York Times project did just that, and the numbers seem to be much clearer.

Couples who married in the 1970s and 1980s certainly experienced a dramatic rise in their divorce rate, approaching 47 percent, with a per capita rate peaking in 1981 at 5.3 divorces per 1000 people. Since then, the divorce rate for marriages in each subsequent decade dropped with a divorce rate near 35 percent for those married in the 1990s and under 15 percent for those married since 2000.

Evolving Marriage Outlook

Changes in social behavior contribute greatly to a society’s views on marriage and divorce, and sociologists see this played out in the divorce rate. The rise in women’s equality and independence caused a great deal of social upheaval in the 1970s and 80s, leading to all sorts of changes, including a rising divorce rate. Since then, society has adapted to many of the changes and divorce rates have settled again.

The current socioeconomic situation for many in America is also causing more couples to wait longer to marry, often postponing their marriage until an age at which they are at a statistically lower risk for divorce. Lower marriage rates and older spouses may be indications that people are taking the success of their marriage seriously, and that the divorce rate may continue to decline as well.

While the rate of divorce may be dropping, the divorce process is not easy one. If you are considering divorce, you need the services of a skilled legal professional who is equipped to help you. Contact an experienced family law attorney in Rolling Meadows today at Cosley Law Office to schedule your free consultation.

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