Divorce in the US - What the Data Shows

The US Census Bureau has created a new report that looks at “marital events” in America. This is the first publication of “Marital Events of America” and the report examines the statistics of marriage, divorce, and widowhood from the American Community Survey data collected in 2009. This data collection process replaces the discontinued Centers for Disease Control vital statistics system that had been used as the source for divorce and marriage statistics in the US.

The most remarkable data in the report was the higher rates of divorce in the South compared to the Northeast – 10-11 per 1,000 people for Southerners vs. 7 per 1,000 for Northerners. The researchers qualified those numbers though by including data on rates of marriage which showed that people living in the South married earlier and at a greater rate than those living in the North thus few marriages equal fewer divorces.

Another interesting yet unfortunately unsurprising data point relates to poverty and the children who live in households affected by divorce. Nationwide, approximately 19% of children live in a household with income below the poverty line but that number jumps to 28% for children of divorce. Those children were also more likely to live in a household headed by their mother (75%). Divorced women in general were more likely to receive public assistance (23%) and to have a household income of less than $25,000 (27%).

So what does this all mean for families in the US? Clearly, divorce will often have a negative impact on a family financially and that children of divorce are the most negatively impacted. As a nation, we still have almost 50% of all marriages ending in divorce and continue to face the harsh realities of the economic downturn that has seen unemployment reach double digits. Based on this data, isn’t it incumbent upon parents to figure out the family finances before making the decision to divorce?

Divorce Rates for Women by State: 2009

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