10 Surprising Stats About The Divorce Rate in America

Stats About The Divorce Rate in America
Worthy Staff

By Worthy Staff | Aug 23rd, 2018

Divorce may seem like a thoroughly modern issue, but in reality, it is deeply rooted in history. The very first recorded divorce in America took place before the nation’s founding when Mrs. James Luxford of Massachusetts discovered that her husband was already married. The 1639 divorce ruling was based on grounds of bigamy and awarded all property to Mrs. Luxford. Meanwhile, her husband was sent back to England after being forced to pay a fine.

Today, it’s widely known that about half of the marriages in our country end up in divorce. According to Psychology Today, the divorce rate in America as of 2018 is between 42-45%. However, there’s a lot more to say about this statistic. Read below 10 surprising stats about divorce rate in America.

1. Divorce Statistics Increased Dramatically in the Late 1800s

In 1889, the New England Divorce Reform League released a report confirming that divorces increased by more than 150 percent between 1867 and 1886. There were 9,937 divorces in 1867, and 25,535 divorces in 1886.

2. The 1970s Saw a Major Spike in Divorce Numbers

America’s divorce rate increased slowly between 1950 and the end of the 1960s. The 1970s saw numbers skyrocket, though. Between 1970 and 1975, the national divorce rate increased by nearly 40 percent.

3. The Average Contested Divorce Costs Thousands

Start researching the cost of divorce, and you’ll find estimates that begin in the low hundreds. While it’s true that filing fees are affordable in most places, divorce is a costly endeavor when people are unable to agree on common issues such as division of property and child custody. When attorney fees, real estate costs, moving costs, and other expenses are taken into account, a contested divorce could cost tens of thousand of dollars – somewhere between $53,000 and $188,000, according to Wevorce.

4. Second and Third Marriages Fail More Often than First Marriages

You probably know that America’s average divorce rate is between 40 and 50 percent. Shocking as this might seem, the divorce rate for second marriages is 67 percent, and the third marriage divorce rate is even higher, at 74%. Sharon Pope at Marriage.com provides insight into the reasons why second and third marriages fail at a higher rate than first marriages.

Between 1970 and 1975, the national divorce rate increased by nearly 40 percent.

5. Couples who Marry After 25 Are Less Likely to Divorce

Using data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), University of Utah researcher Nicholas Wolfinger, PhD discovered that people who married after 25 were less likely to divorce. Additionally, he discovered that those who marry between the ages of 28 and 32 tend to enjoy an even lower divorce rate.

6. The National Divorce Rate Dropped after 2001

Talk about surprising! According to the CDC, the number of divorces has slowly declined since 2001, going from 4 per 1,000 people to 3.1 per 1,000 people in 2015. 2016 saw a slight increase to 3.2 per 1,000 people.

7. The State with the Highest Divorce Rate? Arkansas

At one time, Oklahoma was the state with the highest divorce rate. While it’s still among the top 10, the latest census figures show that Arkansas has the highest rate of divorce, at 23.4 per 1,000 married people. The state’s marriage rate is the 5th highest in the nation, possibly contributing to the higher divorce rate. Idaho, Nevada, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Indiana, Wyoming, Montana, West Virginia, and Tennessee round out the list of the top 10 states with the highest divorce rates.

8. Religious People Can Get Divorced, Too

Remember Mrs. James Luxford from the 1600s? As it turns out, she and her husband were faithful Puritans. Just like those early Americans, today’s practicing Christians and Evangelicals are susceptible to divorce. According to research by the Barna Group, the divorce rate for practicing Christians and Evangelicals was 25 percent – the same as for all other adults.

9. Marrying Between the Ages of 20 and 24 May Increase Your Risk of Divorce

When researchers dig deep into American divorce statistics, they come up with incredible information. In analyzing the divorce rate for men and women based on age at marriage, one age group showed the highest risk. People who married between the ages of 20 and 24 divorced most frequently, at a rate of 36.6 percent for women and an even higher rate of 38.3 percent for men.

10. Happily Ever After? Consider Marrying Later in Life

Waiting to walk down the aisle has a marked effect on the likelihood of divorce. People who marry between the ages of 35 and 39 have the lowest divorce rate – a minuscule 5.1 percent for women, and 6.5 percent for men. At the same time, “gray divorce” among people age 50 and over has increased by almost 50% since the 1990s.

Further reading: the divorce process guide for main US states

Worthy Staff

Worthy Staff

The Worthy Blog is a place for inspiration, insight, and advice for all things surrounding life's greatest transitions - divorce, losing a loved one, retirement, and so much more. You can find us on our blog, Instagram, and Facebook.


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