Census: Earlier weddings, higher marriage rates mean more divorces

WASHINGTON – The highest divorce rates for both men and women tend to be in states where the marriage rate is also highest, according to a report issued Aug. 25 by the U.S. Census Bureau.

While the national divorce rate was 9.7 per 1,000 women and 9.2 per 1,000 men, divorce rates in the South were higher, based on data from the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey.

Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas were among the 10 states with the highest divorce rates for men, and among the 14 states with the highest divorce rates for women, according to the report, “Marital Events of Americans: 2009.”

“Divorce rates tend to be higher in the South because marriage rates are also higher in the South,” said an Aug. 25 statement from Diana Elliott, a family demographer at the Census Bureau. “In contrast, in the Northeast, first marriages tend to be delayed and the marriage rates are lower, meaning there are also fewer divorces.”

Four Northeastern states – Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania – ranked among the nine states with the lowest divorce rates for men, and the 10 states with the lowest divorce rates for women.

The Census Bureau released divorce statistics based on age, race and Hispanic origin, country of birth, educational attainment, family status, how often a person has been married, household income, employment status, poverty status, veteran status, disability status, the type of dwelling lived in, and whether the person had received any public assistance in the past year.

The Census Bureau did not issue any statistics related to the religion of people who get married or divorced in the United States.

The Census Bureau report also showed an age increase for men and women who marry.

In 1970, the median age of first marriages for men was 22.5 years and 20.6 years for women; median means that half are above that figure, and half are below. The median age by 1988 had increased to 25.5 years for men and 23.7 years for women. In 2009, it had risen to 28.4 years for men and 26.5 years for women. The younger the age when first married, the report noted, the higher the divorce rate.

“Not surprisingly, those who divorced in the past 12 months were more likely to be living with an unmarried partner (16 percent of men and 15 percent of women) compared with 6 percent of the general population,” the report said.

“Recently divorced women were financially strained compared with others, having higher poverty rates, lower incomes, and greater use of public assistance, despite high labor force participation rates,” it added.

“Women who divorced in the past 12 months were more likely to receive public assistance than recently divorced men (23 percent and 15 percent, respectively). Looking at household income, women who divorced in the past 12 months reported less income than recently divorced men.”

The Census Bureau also detailed some of the adverse economic effects of divorce on children.

“Children living with a parent who divorced last year were more likely to be in a household below the poverty level (28 percent) compared with other children (19 percent),” the report said. “Children living with a parent who divorced last year were also more likely to be living in a rented home (53 percent) compared with other children (36 percent), and were more likely to be living in households headed by their mothers (73 percent) compared with other children (23 percent).”

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.