The most commonly quoted statistic about marriage is that 50% of marriages end in divorce. For the past several decades, the divorce rate has hovered around that rate, never exactly on target. It’s become more popular recently to challenge the statistic that 1 in every 2 marriages end in divorce. Many researchers have asserted that the divorce rate is leveling off and even dropping. The first reason is that less people are getting married, so there are fewer divorces. The second reason is that college educated individuals who marry when they are older and have decent incomes enjoy much lower divorce rates than the general public.
In America, divorce is becoming more closely tied with socioeconomics. USA Today has reported that just 29% of Americans have a bachelor’s degree. So what about everyone else? Andrew Cherlin’s renowned work, The Marriage-Go-Round, found that while divorce is going down for the college educated, it’s going up for those with only high school degrees. Frankly, the majority of people who read research studies about divorce and marriage are college educated, so they can congratulate themselves on belonging to a more protected population. But I’m more concerned for the majority. And it’s saddening, though not surprising, that economics create such a dividing line.
Time Magazine reported last year that 40% of births in America are to unwed mothers. Even if the mothers are in committed relationships with the fathers of their children, the government provides no mechanism to track it. Besides, statistics for people who have children out of wedlock aren’t good. By the time that child reaches adolescence, over 75% of those relationships are dissolved. Just because these relationships aren’t included in divorce data doesn’t mean the breakup is any less painful or disruptive for all involved – particularly the children.
I’m worried for these children, and the unfairness of the socioeconomic divide in divorce. Divorce statistics are very frustrating. Most people view them from a personal lens. “What are my chances of getting a divorce? What group do I fall in?” is a question most people ask themselves. And with 40% of births to unmarried women, and a divorce rate that still hovers around 50%, it makes many wonder, “Why marry at all? Why bother, just to go through all that?” To answer that question will take another blog. But now I open this question to you . . .
Do divorce statistics frustrate you? What’s your take on the divorce rate and where it’s headed? And when it comes to marriage, why should you bother at all?