Is Love Doomed Because Half Of Marriages End In Divorce?

More than half of marriages now end in divorce, right? Time to call B.S. on this persistent myth, because it’s just not true.

Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times covered exactly why the 50% statistic is incorrect. It’s true that according to the 2014 American Community Survey, there were 18.1 marriages and 8.7 divorces for every 1,000 women. Divide the marriage rate by the divorce rate, and it looks like only about half of couples stay together.

However, the problem is that this doesn’t account for the fact that the survey data only represents a slice in time – in this case, the year 2014. The people divorcing each other in 2014 were not the same people getting married in 2014, so the 50% figure isn’t relevant.

So what is the divorce rate, really?

Miller’s chart for the New York Times shows clearly that divorce rates jumped in the 1970s and 80s, closer to 45%, but they have since dropped. Couples who married in the 90s are currently divorcing each other at a rate of about 35%.

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Most of the improvement in the divorce rate has occurred among the more affluent segments of the population. As shown by Nathan Yau’s interactive chart on Flowing Data, the divorce rate has improved much more for the college-educated than for those without a degree.

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This isn’t to say that marriage isn’t on the decline in other ways. To be sure, our feelings about marriage are changing: younger people are more skeptical about the necessity of marriage as an institution, and as a result, fewer Americans are getting married. But as the data show, those who are getting married now seem to have longer-lasting marriages than couples in the recent past. So it’s not all bad news.

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