Do 50% of Marriages Really End In Divorce? – United States Divorce Statistics

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Many experts estimate that about 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. A 2009 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that the marriage rate was 6.8 marriages per 1,000 adults while the divorce rate was 3.6 divorces per 1,000 adults. This means that the rate of divorces was about 53 percent of the rate of marriages. However, this is an oversimplified way of comparing the rates of marriage and divorce since the people who got married in the years analyzed by the CDC researchers were likely not the same people getting divorced during those same years.

A more comprehensive way to measure the rate of divorce is to determine how many marriages end in divorce. About forty one percent (41%) of first marriages end in divorce. This figure is significantly different from the divorce rate calculated by comparing the rates of marriages and divorces. The rates of divorce are higher for subsequent marriages. Sixty percent (60%) of second marriages and seventy three percent (73%) of third marriages end in divorce.

Risk Factors for Divorce

While 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce, there are some couples who are more likely to divorce than others. A variety of risk factors influence the staying power of marriages. Some of these risk factors, particularly age at marriage, level of education and level of income, are pervasive and influence many aspects of a couple’s relationship.

Age at Marriage

Couples who marry older, particularly after age 25, tend to have lower rates of divorce. Women who marry after they are 25 years old often achieve college or university degrees, which typically allow them access to higher-paying careers. About 78 percent of women with bachelor’s degrees have marriages that last at least 20 years. In addition, people become more emotionally mature as they age, often lending them more skill in conflict resolution than people who marry younger.

Level of Income

Household finances are the second most commonly-cited reason for ending a marriage. Seventy percent (70%) of married couples list money as a source of conflict in their relationships, and one study said that couples who argue once a week about money are thirty percent (30%) more likely to divorce than couples who have fewer arguments about finances.  Couples who have no assets have a seventy percent (70%) higher rate of divorce within three years than couples who have at least $10,000 in assets .

Money troubles can have short-term and long-term effects on a relationship:

  • Arguments about spending and saving can foster resentment over time.
  • One or both partners in lower-income homes may be forced to take more than one job to make ends meet, leaving couples unable to spend time together and maintain their emotional connections.
  • Poorer families may be unable to get preventative care, potentially leading to costly medical conditions. These conditions may send households into debt and require care from family members, placing further strain on marriages.


One study found that the three occupations correlating with the highest rates of divorce were dancing and choreography with a divorce rate of 43 percent, bartending with a rate of 38 percent and massage therapy with a rate of 38 percent. People in these occupations are often employed as independent contractors. Though these occupations often pay well, the hours tend to be long, and people who hold these jobs frequently do not receive medical and other benefits that people in traditional occupations receive. When one partner in a marriage works long or odd hours, they may be unable to spend time with their spouse, causing the couple’s emotional connection to become strained. In addition, a lack of medical benefits may cause money problems if a medical emergency occurs.

The occupations that had the lowest divorce rates in that study were directors of religious activities and education and clergy, both of which had divorce rates of just under 6 percent. People who are part of a religious community often find support from friends and family within those groups. In addition, religious communities tend to emphasize the importance of marriage, and couples who are experiencing marital difficulties may be able to find free marriage counseling from clergy or other members of the community.

A study in the Journal of Family Issues found that military couples were more likely to stay married than civilian couples, despite the stress that comes with deployment and other aspects of military life. Spouses of deployed service members often have a strong support network similar to the network that people in religious communities have. In addition, the government provides health care, education and housing allowances to military families, relieving couples of many of the stresses that may place a strain on civilian marriages.

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