Divorce Statistics: Interesting & Surprising

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Looking at divorce statistics often gets overwhelming. It’s harrowing to hear that oft-repeated statement that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Sometimes it’s tough to interpret the raw numbers and determine what they really mean. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some interesting, useful, or just downright surprising divorce statistics and see if we can provide any context.

The Basic Divorce Statistics

The median ages for first marriages in the United States are 26.9-years-old for men and 25.3-years-old for women. On the other end, the average age for couples going through their first divorce is approximately 30-years-old—30.5 for men, 29 for women.

The average length of a first marriage that ends in divorce is roughly eight years—7.8 years for men, 7.9 for women. Moving into second marriages that end in divorce, the timeline shortens somewhat. In these cases, the median length for men is 7.3 years, while for women it drops to 6.8 years.

If a person does ultimately remarry, the average time between divorce and the next wedding is around three years—3.3 years for men, 3.1 years for women.

2014 saw 813,862 divorces and annulments in the United States. This represents a drop from 877,000 in 2011.

This number breaks down to almost 2230 divorces per day. Which averages out to roughly 93 divorces per hour and just over 1.5 divorces per minute.

More Marriages = More Divorces

It seems logical to think that after one divorce, people are less likely to divorce again. You learn some things through your experience and emerge wiser, with a better sense of what you want and need.

That certainly happens in some cases. People become more cautious and make sure a relationship is sturdy and stable before taking that next step. But that’s not how it happens in every case. In reality, with each subsequent marriage, the chances of divorce greatly increase. The numbers break down like this:

  • 41% of first marriages end in divorce.
  • 60% of second marriages end in divorce.
  • 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

While these numbers appear staggering at first glance, it helps to remember that as a person goes along, the sample size shrinks significantly There are substantially fewer third marriages than second, and substantially fewer second than first marriages. After all of this, if you still marry a fourth time, you may just be a glutton for punishment.

How Common Are Second Marriages?

Divorce is so commonplace that most people barely bat an eye when finding out someone was married. Many of us have friends, family members, or are ourselves divorced. In 2004, a U.S. Census Bureau survey found that in 36% of weddings at least one spouse was remarrying. That means, in more than one-third of marriages, one party had previously been married.

This doesn’t mean, however, that every marriage ends in divorce or that everyone marries multiple times. Additional data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that roughly half of the adult population marries only once. 50% of men and 54% of women tie the knot one time and one time only. This includes people who marry and divorce but don’t marry again, as well as those who remain married for the long haul.

Declining Marriage Rates

The overall marriage rate has declined steadily over the last few decades. Young people between the age of 20-34 opting not to marry, or pushing it off until later in life, is a big contributing factor.

Since 2000, the percent of this age group who haven’t married has spiked in every state. According to one 2016 report, 81% of this demographic in Washington DC remains unmarried. This number may be exaggerated in city centers where young people relocate to work, but it reflects a broader trend. In many states, the number currently hovers around 70%, where at the turn of the 21st century the highest was 57%.

That said, the majority of American adults do ultimately marry. The Census Bureau estimates that 72% of women and two-thirds of men never marry. One key element that feeds into this is people choosing to remain single longer than in previous generations. Economic uncertainty, the desire to start a career, and other factors play into decisions to delay marriage.

Recent numbers are themselves indicative of a larger evolution. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, 54.4% of the adult population, or more than 120 million people, were married. This marks a decline from 1990, where that figure was in the 60% range, and from 1970, where it was above 70%.

In 2000, 41 million people, or 18.5% of the adult population, were divorced, widowed, or separated. 27.1%, 59.9 million people, had never married at the time the data was collected.

What Do These Divorce Statistics Mean?

In the end, what do all of these divorce statistics mean? They show current trends and illustrate evolving ideas on marriage and divorce over time. They provide a removed, big picture glimpse at the state of marriage and divorce.

What these divorce statistics don’t offer is a look at individual situations and circumstances. It’s easy to glance at these figures out of context and think everything is doomed. But these numbers are just that, numbers. Divorce statistics that lean one way or another don’t mean that’s how every marriage plays out. Sometimes second and even third marriages stick and are wonderful. The people involved and the work they put in determine the success of a marriage.

If you do have questions about divorce, feel free to contact Goldberg Jones at our Portland office.

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