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Recent Divorce Trends in America

When we look at the types and number of people getting divorced in Chicago today, are those trends the same as they were twenty or thirty years ago? According to a recent article in The Washington Post, many of us have heard the “myth” that “about half of all marriages end in divorces,” but that is not exactly true. To be sure, recent research by Nathan Yau of Flowing Data indicated that number does fall into the realm of myth because it does not take into account the demographics of those who are filing for divorce and those who get married. So, what do you need to know to help set the record straight?

We Are Not Using the Correct Mathematical Calculation

To begin with, the myth of the current divorce rate is likely the result of some bad calculations. According to Yau, the fiction that around 50 percent of all marriages result in divorce is the product of “bad math.” As he explains, it stems from people simply “dividing the divorce rate by the marriage rate in a given year.” And if you perform that equation for data from 2014, you see that for every 1,000 women in the U.S., there were 17 marriages and 8.7 divorces. When you divide 8.7 by 17, you might assume that the divorce rate was 51 percent that year. Why does that formula fail to make sense?

As the article clarifies, “the problem is that the people who are marrying each other in 2014 aren’t the same as the people who are divorcing each other in 2014.” In other words, “if you look at the data over a longer period of time, it becomes clear that the divorce rate is lower than half.” If we do some better calculations, it is relatively easy to see that the divorce rate in the United States has been declining since the early 1980s. Indeed, the divorce rate was at its peak in the 1970s and early 1980s, and we haven’t seen those rates of divorce since then. Current trends suggest that only about one-third of marriages these days end in divorce.

The Numbers Alone Do Not Tell Us Everything We Need to Know 

In addition to some faulty division, only looking at numbers when determining the current divorce rate means that we are leaving out significant factors. What are we failing to see? In short, divorce rates are higher among some groups of people than others. The following data compiled by Yau helps to show how different divorce rates may exist for distinct demographics:

  • Educational background may play a role: around 39 percent of men and 37 percent of women with only a high school diploma have a marriage that ends in divorce. Those rates drop to 29 percent of women and 28 percent of men with a bachelor’s degree.
  • Race could be a factor: the rates for getting divorced or remarried are slightly higher for black Americans than for whites, while divorce rates are much lower among Hispanics. The rates of divorce and remarriage are the lowest, however, among Asian-Americans, while the highest rates of divorce and remarriage are seen among Native Americans.

Determining divorce rates, in short, is more complicated than it might at first seem. If you have questions about filing for divorce in Chicago, you should discuss your case with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer. An advocate at our firm can answer your questions today. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates to learn more about our services.