Marriage Measures Guide of State-Level Statistics. Marriage and Divorce

03/30/2008

The second table for each state reports statistics related to marriage and divorce.  Divorce rates vary widely by state and this information could provide useful guidance to state policymakers and program operators designing healthy marriage programs.  States such as Arkansas, Nevada, and Wyoming have high divorce rates.  For this reason, these states may want to focus their marriage programs on reducing divorce among married couples statewide.  By contrast, states such as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have low divorce rates and thus may want to make their programs for married couples more local or targeted.  Divorce rates also vary by demographic characteristics such as gender, race/ethnicity, education level, and rural or urban residence.  Information on these differences may help policymakers further target their healthy marriage programs to key segments of their state populations.

Figure I.1
Geographic Divisions Defined by the U.S. Census Bureau

Figure I.1: Geographic Divisions Defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. These are the standard Census regions. The list of states in each region is in the appendix.

The divorce statistics reported in the top half of the table are based on administrative records collected by the National Center for Health Statistics.  Data are available for all states except California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, and Minnesota.  The three main statistics reported in this part of the table are defined as follows:

  • Number of Divorces Granted.  This statistic indicates the total number of divorces granted in the state in 2005, as reported to the National Center for Health Statistics by various state agencies.  The figures include reported annulments and count more than one divorce by the same person as separate events.  The regional and national estimates exclude the six states for which data are not available.
  • Divorce Rate.  The states divorce rate is calculated by dividing the total number of divorces granted in 2005 by the size of the states population.  The resulting statistic indicates the number of divorces granted per 1,000 residents.  The statistic should not be interpreted as the number of marriages that end in divorce or the number of divorces a person can expect in his or her lifetime, because it is based on data from a single year and does not account for the timing of divorce.  Rather, the statistic provides a rough estimate of the average number of people who became divorced during 2005, adjusting for population size and not accounting for people who filed for more than one divorce.
  • State Rankings.  The state rankings by divorce rate run from highest to lowest among the 44 states for which data are available.  For example, Kentuckys rank of ninth means that it has the ninth-highest divorce rate among the 44 states that report these statistics.

The additional divorce statistics reported in the bottom half of the table are based on survey data from the 2006 American Community Survey (ACS), a large nationally representative survey of U.S. households conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau.  Key statistics reported in this part of the table include the following:

  • Number of Divorced People.  This statistic is reported in the first column of the table and indicates the total number of people who reported their current marital status as divorced in 2006.  The sample is limited to adults ages 15 and older.  Because these totals refer to current marital status, they do not count people who have remarried following a divorce.  The numbers would be higher if they included people who have ever been divorced.
  • Percentage of People who Are Divorced.  This statistic expresses the number of people who reported their current marital status as divorced (column 1) as a percentage of the total number of people in the group who have ever been married.  The sample is limited to adults ages 15 and older.  For example, the national average reported in the bottom row of the far right-hand column indicates that about 15 percent of ever-married adults in the United States reported their current marital status as divorced in 2006.  This statistic does not represent the percentage of all marriages that will end in divorce, because it is based on data for a single year and does not account for remarriage.  Rather, the statistic provides a snapshot estimate of the relative size of the divorced population in 2006.  Moreover, as explained in the Technical Appendix, the statistic can also be viewed as a rough proxy for the states overall divorce rate, at least for the purpose of making basic rankings or comparisons of states.
  • Subgroup Estimates.  The rows of the table report separate estimates for key demographic subgroups.  For example, the national estimates for men show that about 13.7 percent of ever-married men in the United States reported their marital status as divorced in 2006.  To calculate the subgroup estimates for rural and urban areas, we merged geographic information from the 2000 U.S. Census with survey data from the 2006 ACS.  For reasons explained in the Technical Appendix, this approach may overstate the size of the urban population in some states.  Moreover, the Census definitions of rural and urban areas are based on statistical criteria that may not correspond with how state or local residents define these areas.  For example, some small towns or lightly populated areas defined as rural by local residents may be classified as urban in Census tabulations, especially areas that are near larger towns or cities.  Therefore, readers should interpret these statistics with caution.  The symbol NA means that the information is not available because there are fewer than 5,000 ever-married adults in that area or group.

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