Sunday, May 13, 2007

More Than 70% of Marriages Succeed

The divorce rate in America has fallen by about one-third since its peak in 1981 and last year reached its lowest level since 1970. The major causes of the improvement seem to include later marriages and the greater number of women with college degrees.

As important, there is a growing awareness that the "50% of all marriages end in divorce" canard was no more than a projection, and a poor one at that. Actually, more than 70% of all marriages are first marriages and there is every reason to think that proportion will increase over time as the divorce "bubble" of the 1960's and 1970's recedes.

Even the New York Times has noticed:

The figure (the 50% divorce rate) is based on a simple - and flawed - calculation: the annual marriage rate per 1,000 people compared with the annual divorce rate. In 2003, for example, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 7.5 marriages per 1,000 people and 3.8 divorces, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

But researchers say that this is misleading because the people who are divorcing in any given year are not the same as those who are marrying, and that the statistic is virtually useless in understanding divorce rates. In fact, they say, studies find that the divorce rate in the United States has never reached one in every two marriages, and new research suggests that, with rates now declining, it probably never will.
In addition to later marriages favoring better marriages, the divorce rate among women holding college degrees is about one-half that of women who do not, according to Dr. Steven P. Martin, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland.
"It's a big wow sort of story. I've been looking for two years at other data sets to see if it's wrong, but it really looks like it's happening."
According to Joshua R. Goldstein, associate professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton's Office of Population Research
"Expectations of high divorce are in some ways self-fulfilling. That's a partial explanation for why rates went up in the 1970's."
As word gets out that rates have tempered or actually begun to fall, Dr. Goldstein added,
"It could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy in the other

Happy Mother's Day!

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