Divorce Rate

It is my understanding that the divorce rate is calculated by the simple formula of:

Number of divorces/Number of marriages

If we were to use the same formula for the death rate, we would have have:

Number of deaths/Number of births

As far as I know, the death rate for humans is 100%. So right from there this idea doesn’t make much sense.

Now consider that we have 10 couples which are married on January 1.

One couple divorces, and each partner marries again on February 1. They each do this 4 more times. Maybe even re-marrying each other once or twice.

At the end of the year we have 20 marriages and 9 divorces. Is the divorce rate really 45%?

The divorce rate is much more a reflection of the instability of individuals within a marriage, not the institution itself. In this case, two individuals out of 20 were unable to maintain a stable relationship.

Welcome to the boards toftdahl.

Your logic is a bit flawed, I’m afraid.

The death rate (and marriage rate, and birth rate, etc.) is usually number of deaths/whole population (not /number of births – otherwise you could have a death rate of > 100% – see the Black Death) and is usually expressed as X deaths per 1000 population.

It is true, however, that the marriage rates and divorce rates are a bit flawed, as they fail to take “serial marriers” into account. The only way to come up with a real “divorce rate” (and even this method isn’t 100%) is to go back and find all the marriages that occured, say, 70 years ago, and find out what happened to them. (X% remained married until a partner died, X% divorced, X% are still married [and all the more power to them!]).

Zev Steinhardt

And, of course, divorce rate is really no indication of the stability of human relationships anyway.

Some people don’t live together, but stay married. They aren’t showing up in the divorce statistics because they aren’t getting divorced - but they are only married on paper.

Some people live together for their whole lives and never get married. They are married by everything but paper.

Divorce stats are one of those interesting statitisics that have some flaws to them. Actually, most stats have some flaws to them, this one just tends to get used to mean things we aren’t sure are actually there.

Just a thought, but would a more accurate approach be taking a snapshot in time? As in, currently divorced status/currently married? You would miss serial divorces, but it would give a better idea of what percentage find the institution working for them on some level.


What if we ratified a constitutional amendment that protected the institution of marriage. Let’s give it a cute little name, like the Defense of Marriage Amendment. We’ll do it right before a presidential election for maximum effect. This amendment will protect family values by outlawing divorce. What better way to protect marriage and deflect attention from more pressing issues? Then the divorce rate will be zero, and all the neocons will live happily ever after.


How to compute these numbers depends on what you want to see. A distribution of marriage lengths would be interesting, but this is biased by the fact that younger people can’t be married 50 years. You might want to look at marriage length vs. age, but you’d need to correct for death of spouses. You might want to look at time till divorce - but then you leave out all the people who’ve never been divorced. I think I’ve seen a distribution of number of divorces per person somewhere. Maybe seeing the probability of divorce over time? Over number of marriages? Or maybe, assuming people could get married at 18, the number of years per marriage per each bucket of age after 18.

I don’t look at divorce rates for a living, but I do look at the time to fail of computer components, and it is a similar problem in a way.

And what the heck does this have to do with the OPs question? No one suggested outlawing divorce, for heaven’s sake… :rolleyes:

Zev Steinhardt

The and [/] coding signifies that the post has nothing to do with the OP. Its called a hijack. The point was that our elected officials have proposed an amendment, the DOMA, to preserve marriage and save it from infiltration by gays. I see divorce as the real threat to the institution. :rolleyes: right back at ya.

There has to be a time unit too right? Of all the people alive now, 100% will die someday. But only a few of them will die this year. So wouldn’t it be “X persons per 1000 population per year” or “X% of population per day” or something?

It’s usually expressed by the year. So when you go to the almanac and see that the death rate of a country is X per 1000, it means that X people per 1000 population died that year.

Zev Steinhardt