The divorce rate has dropped to an all-time low for most couples in the U.S., with one significant exception.
San Diego, Calif., February 3, 2017 – Most people I know accept this statement as true: Half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce.
Here’s the truth: it’s not the reality when you’re talking about all marriages across the U.S.. Research shows over the last four decades, the divorce rate has been on a steadily decline. The overall U.S. divorce rate dropped again for 2015 for the third year in a row, to the lowest overall rate in 40 years.
The National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio has been studying divorce rates and releasing annual statistics about the American family since 1970. The 2015 rate of divorce was 16.9 divorces for every 1,000 married women age 15 and older. This is down from 17.6 divorces in 2014. The peak year for divorce was 1980, when there were 23 divorces per 1,000 women.
Marriage and divorce rates have followed different patterns over the past forty-five years. In 1970, there were nearly 77 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15 and older. By 2010, this rate more than halved, and newly released data from the American Community Survey reveal that in 2015 there were 32 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women. But this is up from the previous year and the highest rate of marriages since 2009, so it’s possible marriage rates are stabilizing.
Credit the Millennial Generation for the marriage decline, and so far, for the divorce decline. When you delay first getting married at an older age, your odds of divorce decline. Younger Americans are waiting much longer to get married, and many are not getting married at all as living together as a couple or family without a legal marriage has lost much of its old social stigma. The average age for first marriage for women is now 27 years old, and for men it’s 29 years old. In large cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington DC, it’s even higher.
But the truth also is that when a first marriage fails, the average divorce happens about 12 years into the marriage. Many Millennials haven’t gotten there just yet. We will see whether they are better at keeping their vows if their track record holds steady as they get older.
There is one exception in the population where divorce is on the rise, and you can blame the Baby Boomers. The rate of divorce for married adults 50 and older has doubled since 1990. For those over 65, it’s tripled. There are several factors involved. People are living longer in general, and many don’t want to be stuck in a marriage even at 65 if they’re going to live 20 more years. Women are more likely to be independent and have their own source of income, allowing them more financial freedom to make this choice.
There are several ways you can lower your odds of divorce. We already mentioned one: delaying your first marriage until your late 20s or early 30s. Another way: get a college education. Adults who have graduated from college have a 40 percent lower rate of divorce overall.
Divorce rates also differ depending on where you live. The area with the highest rate of divorce: Washington D.C., followed by Wyoming, Nevada, Arkansas and Alaska. The rate of divorce in the nation’s capital is nearly triple the rate of Hawaii, the state with the lowest divorce rate. The other states in the lowest five: Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Delaware, and New Jersey.
If you’re considering marriage in the near future, consider one more way to increase your odds of long-term success. Couples who attended at least eight hours of premarital counseling and followed through with their marriage increased their odds of staying married by 30 percent.
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra. Fleischer can be reached via Google +
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