Census: Divorce rates fall; long-lasting marriages rise

It may seem that divorce is all around us, and I think that influences the number of people who consider marrying or staying married. The reality is the U.S. Census Bureau just reported that the divorce rate has dropped and the number of long-lasting marriages has risen. Most Americans marry once and remain married.

With headlines questioning whether marriage has lost its relevance, and with spotlights on the high-profile marriages that fail, it’s not surprising that we as Americans have an inaccurate picture of reality. Here are some of the recently reported census facts:

  • Seventy-seven percent of couples who have been married since 1990 reached their 10-year anniversaries.
  • Fifty-five percent of all married couples have been married for at least 15 years.
  • Thirty-five percent of all married couples have celebrated their 25th anniversaries.
  • Six percent of married couples have been married more than 50 years.

Census data also tells us people are waiting longer to get married and that fewer people are choosing to marry. So it would make sense that people who do marry are more certain of their decision. “Couples that get married in their mid-twenties or later than that are more likely to avoid divorce court,” said Bradford Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. He added that marriage is coming more stable, while divorce is becoming less common in the U.S.

Unfortunately, certain segments of the population are seeing increases in divorce and in childbearing. These include Americans without a college degree who are less affluent, working class or poor. Wilcox calls it the marriage divide and says 41 percent of kids today are born outside of marriage, are likely to be exposed to a “carousel of romantic partners and to suffer as a consequence.”

As a country, we still have significant improvements to make. This recent divorce decline comes after decades of increases in divorce rates. Those who are financially struggling have more difficulties staying married. In addition, certain races face higher divorce rates. The Associated Press reports the percent of first marriages that end in divorce are as follows: Black women: 49 percent; white women: 41 percent; Hispanic women: 34 percent; and Asian women: 22 percent.

See: ABC News story on the Census Report

In addition, rather than simply reduce the divorce rate, we hope to improve marital quality. That’s the goal of this and many other blogs and marriage professionals. Please share with me (either via email or by commenting) what topics you would like to see that relate most to improving your own marital quality.

Related Links:
Do we have too much of a fix-it mentality toward marriage? I think so. Read “What’s wrong and how do I fix it?” I’ve agreed with Corey’s philosophy in past posts, that what we focus on gets larger. So focusing on a small problem on your marriage can potentially grow into a serious one. Corey spells out very clearly the better strategy to focus on where you want to go and on how you can be a better spouse.

What causes divorce? I tend to agree with Paul that many times it’s death of a marriage by 1,000 cuts rather than one specific item.

Men who seek to improve marital quality may enjoy these two men-only Christian marriage blogs:
Better Husbands and Fathers –shares a list of date ideas for you and your wife.

I like the post “Be there for her” at the web site Romantic Act of the Day.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

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5 responses to “Census: Divorce rates fall; long-lasting marriages rise

  1. I agree with your statement that it is the death by a thousand cuts. I use a different analogy. Marriage is like a brand new car. We wax it, wash and vacuum it out. Then we get a scratch in it, and we become a little disallusioned. Then we get another scratch in it and we don’t care about it as much and stop washing it and waxing it so frequently. After a while we get tired of it and want a whole new car.

    Women withhold sex and men become passive agressive, do less and less around the house and become more emotionally withdrawn. It becomes a vicious cycle. The same is true for highly sexed women whose husbands do not take care of their sexual needs and I find that women are just as likely if not more likely to cheat to get their sexual needs met. I go back to the bible in I Cor 7 where it says that neither the man nor the woman is allowed to deny their partner sex except for a brief time for prayer and fasting and of course legitimate sickness.

    blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

  2. The data from studies seem to suggest that keeping families together has a more long-term positive effect which can carry on through multiple generations. But many other factors are probably involved which ultimately increase risk of divorce (both in current and successive generations). If I consider Thailand, for example, I see that there are lower divorce rates here than back home in America. If you were to ask a Thailand lawyer about legalities, you’ll likely find that Thai laws differ from American laws regarding marriage/divorce; but not so drastically that it can affect the divorce rates. Traditional beliefs within the society are probably more critical to the lower divorce rate. Divorce is not so widely accepted, therefore couples are pressured to keep their marriage rather than end it. You can sometimes even see couples that have legally divorced, but still reside in the same house in an effort to keep the reputation of the family in good status.

    • Certainly societal beliefs would have a substantial impact on a nation’s divorce rate as you point out. In fact, I think divorce has become so easily acceptable in the U.S. that some couples aren’t seeking or given the resources and tools that could save the marriage, restore the relationship and keep the family intact. This is unfortunate. While it’s helpful that victims of abuse don’t have to endure the shame of divorce, more social pressure to stay together could help many families.

      • Sorry, I didn’t address something else you mentioned. I think you’ve probably hit the nail on the head with this statement “I think divorce has become so easily acceptable in the U.S. that some couples aren’t seeking or given the resources and tools that could save the marriage, restore the relationship and keep the family intact. This is unfortunate.” … It really has become easier in many ways. And yes, it’s not always a good thing indeed. I know there was a time when people would absolutely refuse to give up on their marriage. I guess the overall function that a marriage has within the society as well as the view of what exactly a marriage is supposed to be are both changing a lot.

  3. Yeah that’s very true. I see positives and negatives in the more traditional systems here as well. Although the rates still remain lower than in America, it is becoming more common to see divorce, particularly in larger cities such as Bangkok. A big reason is probably because many women are working now and are able to support themselves if they are in an unhappy situation. Yet, the older ideologies still remain within Thai society. For example, a woman that is divorced will often have a very difficult time in finding a new husband, particularly if she is not younger and if she has children already. I suppose this is one reason why it is common to see many divorced women in Thailand seeking a non-Thai husband; because they know it is more acceptable in the west (Although sometimes their great expectations or ideas about foreign men, particularly westerners, can be inaccurate. The same is true for many western men regarding their misunderstandings about foreign women).

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