50% of Marriages end in divorce?

All my life I have heard half of American marriages end in divorce. Is this
true and how do they know this? Do they take everyone who got married in one year and see how many are still married? That wouldn’t work because some people get divorced in days but others (like my parent’s marriage) last
decades before they broke up. Do they compare divorce rates to marriage
rates? That seems inaccurate to me. Please help get to the bottom of this
oft-quoted statistic.

A rather casual search for “Divorce statistics” yields hundred of pages on the subject, though you should probably go through the official CDC statistics for the straight dope.

The rates are high, but a flat statement like “50% of Marriages end in divorce” is pure bullplop, since any statistical conclusion requires qualifiers and additional info. Certainly the CDC provides plenty of information, but a newspaper reporter isn’t likely to quote lengthy mathematical conclusions when he can write a single lazy factoid.

If this was anything as true as the people tossing stats about would have us beleive, then the thing to do would be to get married. If it didn’t work out, then certianly the second one would. :slight_smile:

I recall reading that this stemmed from someone checking the statistics for a particular year, and finding that the number of divorces was about half the number of marriages that year. With obviously very faulty logic, it was said that half of all marriages would end in divorce. If some editors had asked critical questions and used some common sense, we might never have heard the phrase.

Half of my marriages have ended in divorce. :slight_smile:

Amazingly enough “international marriages” have an 80% success rate after 5 years. 4 out of 5 still married after 5 years. from an this INS report: http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/aboutins/repsstudies/Mobappa.htm

I must be obtuse here but if this is basically true year after year that the divorce rate is 1/2 the marriage rate doesn’t that mean the 1/2 of marriages end in divorce?

While I don’t have the time to search previous threads about this(which I’m sure exist), I heard a statistic recently that said something to the effect that, in the USA, over 50% of first marriages end in divorce, but only .35% of second ones do.

Please don’t quote my figures. I only used them as relative.

No, because the population is changing, both in size and in culture. A better approximation would be to compare the current divorce rate to the marriage rate some time earlier, when those folks were getting married. This still wouldn’t get it right, though, because the people getting divorced now were married for different amounts of time.

Of course, what you really want to know is how many people getting married now will eventually divorce, but no amount of statistics can get you that without some extrapolation, and extrapolation is always dangerous.

i just read last week that the interpretation of the figures is what the problem was…the ones who say 50% etc… use age groups for their ranges and show 25% of 20-35 year olds were divorced and 25% of 36-50 year olds were divorced, so it means 50% of all marriages end in divorce…something like that, which can give a false picture of the situation. i just read it last week…if i haven’t thrown it out i will give cite tomorrow.

That is contrary to what my understanding is.

Along with what everyone else has said, one important facet of the uselessness of a statistic like he OP suggests is that it doesn’t tell us how long any of the persons in question were married. (As Chronos alludes to.)

Let’s look at my immediate family for an anecdotal illustration:

Me–Married, 11 years, never divorced
Sister–Married once, divorced after two years
Father–First marriage, 19 years, divorce; second marriage, 15 years and still married.
Mother–First marriage, 19 years, divorced.

So there we have 4 marriages and two divorces–50% But we weren’t all married in the same year: My parents were married in 1965, my father remarried in 1984, I was married in 1991, and my sister was married in 1995. Of the other people who married those years, how many were divorced? How many are still married? How many have had multiple marriages? Those are much more meaningful statistics.

If you add in more members of my family, it gets lower:

Maternal grandparents–Married 60 years, never divorced.
Paternal grandmother–Married twice, widowed once, divorced once.
Father’s two sisters–Each married once, never divorced.
Mother’s three siblings: 4 marriages, one divorce.

Now we have 13 marriages and 4 divorces – only 33%. And, again, a wide variety of marriage years.

Or, take serial marriers like Elizabeth Taylor, Donald Trump or Jennifer Lopez. They’re married and divorced many times throughout their lives, and tend to skew the statistics somewhat.

One other possible cause for misinterpretation: Are they perhaps only looking at marriages which have ended? There are a great many people who are currently married, and many of them will remain married until death do they part. Obviously, leaving them out of the statistics would skew things somewhat.

There are only two ways to end a marriage that I am familiar with. Divorce and death of one of the spouses. Annulments I belive are a religious function and you still need a legal divorce. If they are leaving out marriages that end because one of the people die then 100% of marriages end in divorce. So I don’t think this is what is happening.

I am not sure I understand why people think that 50% of marriages ending in divorce is unbelievable. It seems to be believable to me.

So, using bib’s statistics for the year 1997

it can be said that of the people who were in a state of matrimony in 1996, over 50% of them got divorced in 1997. To me, that says the divorce rate is over 50% currently.

I think there’s something unclear about these statistics. It doesn’t make sense.

Let’s assume the divorce rate cited remains the same for a number of years–in other words, in any of these years, half of the people in a marriage get divorced the next year. So that next year, the number of married couples is about half of what it was the year before. Then half of them get divorced the following year. And half of the ones remaining married get divorced the year after that. (Presumably those who marry in any particular year, being in a state of matrimony, follow the same 50% rate.) Each year there would be considerably less marriages intact, and it wouldn’t take long before their number was very small. It does not appear to me that this is the case.

I sense there are some critical details missing in terms of exactly what these statistics relate to. It sure doesn’t make sense that half of the people in a state of matrimony in a given year get divorced the next year.

You want to know the real problem? If only 50% of marriages are ending in divorces, then the other 50% must be ending when someone DIES!

The casual attitude of our law enforcement agencies toward this immense tragedy is nothing less than shocking.

Most of the quotes I seem are qualitative. For example I have seen 50% of all NEW marriages end in divorce. Remember some people may marry 6 times and divorce each time. I know people that are still married and just stopped living together. They never bother to get divorced. (In those cases it was easy as no kids were involved.)