Inspired by the previous thread, [“Why did an American doctor want to know all these details?”](http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=657389 Why did an American doctor want to know all these details?)
Ever since getting divorced, I’ve noticed that most forms that request demographic information have a category for “divorced”. (Confirmation bias, I know.) I’ve seen this on everything from government forms to product satisfaction surveys. My question is, why? “Single” and “married” are ongoing statuses. “Divorced” is a reference to a discrete event in the past, as is “widowed”. I presume that people who get remarried stop labelling themselves as divorced or widowed. But if divorced or widowed people never remarry, do demographers expect them to switch back to “single” at some point? Or are we expected to keep labelling ourselves with these statuses until the end of our lives? What value does it give demographers to know that at some point in his life, John Doe taking your survey was married?
(I realize there’s an edge case where a person could be legally married but going through a divorce, but really, is that temporary state so prevalent as to deserve a survey answer? I’ve never seen one for the similar in-between state of “engaged”.)