Divorce Statistics and 'Serial Spouses'

Divorce statistics (US) are variously reported to be somewhere in the 30%-50% range.

How do they count people who get married, divorced, then go and marry someone else or (fewer cases) remarry the original person? Do those people/marriages count as multiple datapoints?

This would seem to bias the statistics upwards, with ‘serial spouses’ getting more …votes… than people who marry once and stay married.

I’m happy to be in the latter category, but its distressing to feel we may become a minority.

The way I’ve always understood it was that the divorce rate refers to the percentage of marriages that end in divorce, not the number of people who get divorced. So serial spouses aren’t getting extra votes—the statistics are counting the marriages, not the people in those marriages. Each marriage would then get 1 vote, which is different than each member of the married couple getting counted. I agree though that this would inflate the percentage.

In another vein, I’ve never understood this statistic anyway: is it 30% of past marriages have already ended in divorce? My marriage could potentially move over to the other column at any time, so until one of us is dead, how can they know if my marriage will end in divorce?
Everyone who is divorced was, at one point, counted in the non-divorced column at some point. I think the number of different ways to count this is so myriad as to make the statistic almost meaningless.

You count up the number of marriages performed, and the number of those that have ended in divorce. That’s your divorce rate at any given time. No ambiguity at all.

But there’s a good point there.

It’s easy to count all marriages and divorces and be able to unambiguously say ‘50% of all marriages end in divorce’.
But that doesn’t mean ‘If this is your first marriage, there’s a 50% chance you’ll be divorced’

For an exaggerated example, say 7/8ths of the population marry and stay that way, but 1/8 of the population are Elizabeth Taylors/Henry VIIIs who get married seven times each and divorce every time.
Then indeed half of all marriages do end in divorce, but any given newlywed has only a 1 in 8 chance of being divorced in the future.

It’s my understanding that serial spouses do indeed inflate the divorce percentage statistics. At least, so I have read in books that look at such issues.

For example, my friend whose mom has been married 4 times and her dad 3 times–between the two of them they’ve racked up 7 divorces total, with only 9 people involved, and who knows about the other ex-spouses.

I’ve read similar things. If the divorce rate was independent from the marriage number (that is the probability of getting a divorce from marriage n is = that of marriage n-1) it wouldn’t matter. But I’ve seen some statistics that show the rate increases with number of marriages (the Hollywood effect?) so serial spouses do tend to inflate the rate.

I suppose you could come up with a probability chart listing the various populations and their divorce rates. We know that people who get married before age 21 and people with less education are more likely to divorce, etc. Probably someone has done it by now, only I don’t know about it.

Here is one, but it is a bit wordy.

And there is also a Divorce calculator which includes age, length of marriage, and education. According to it, I have a 3% chance of getting divorced in the next five years, and 31% with my background have been.

There are a bunch more.

There are some ways to tilt the odds in one’s favor, to avoid divorce. You’re very unlikely to divorce your second spouse if you stay married to the first. That’s my method. For that matter, you’ll eschew ex-spouses if you never espouse marriage.

There was a fellow here in town who wed three brides, and he never divorced any of them. He’s single again, now. He lives in the state prison, for killing all three of his wives, and maybe his mother. That’s an extreme example, but he bucked the trend. Three marriages, and he was never divorced once.

Al Franken said the best law for Defense of Marriage would be one forbidding anyone from getting married after three divorces. That would crimp the stats.

Excellent. I’m 9%, probably mostly because I was 22 when I got married. My husband’s chance, however, is 4%–we are exactly the same age, but the lowest age field for men starts at 23, which I think is silly. I know a lot of guys who got married at 21.

Interesting that only women get asked about children. Anyone know why the difference? If I take my kids out of the equation, it says that 61% in that situation are already divorced–a much higher percentage–but does not give a chance for the next 5 years; it only says N/A.

That is interesting. I didn’t try the female side before, but picking female reduces my odds to 1%, and the percentage of people divorced to 24%. The age ranges are different also, with the men’s age range skewed higher.

No entry for other marriages, though.