The Myth About Divorce Rates In America

Life & Love | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 01/05/2015 | 01:30 PM EST

Conventional wisdom says half of all marriages end in divorce court, but is that really so?

We’ve all heard it like a broken record: 50 percent of American marriages end in divorce. The reality, however, is that the often overused statistic is actually a long-held myth.

In fact, not only are 50 percent of marriages not ending in divorce but the American divorce rate as a whole has stopped climbing for quite some time. Marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time, according to a December article in The New York Times. The divorce rate, the Times says, peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the past three decades.

So where exactly does this statistic come from and why does it continue to persist?


William Doherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota, says it’s more of a projection than an existing figure.

“[That statistic] has always been a projection, and it's a 40-year projection, and it's based on data from the early baby boomer generation, when the baby boomers were getting married,” Doherty told HuffPost Live. “So if ... 2 percent [of baby boomers] get divorced a year, if you have that sort of projection out over 35 or 40 years, then you have 50 percent or higher. So it was never a fixed amount of current marriages.”

“It was always a projection about the future. And the divorce rate has gone down since the baby boomers were in their marrying age. So it wasn't such a bad prediction at the beginning, but we've not kept up-to-date,” he added.


About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary, which is a tick up from the 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Couples who wedded in the 2000s are divorcing at even lower rates, the Times points out. If the current marriage trends continue, nearly two-thirds will never end in divorce, according to data.

There are many reasons for the drop in divorces in America. Some of those reasons include people getting married later in life and birth control. Much of the trend, experts say, has to do with changing gender roles helmed by the feminist movement (Thanks Beyonce).

Maybe women are starting to feel more empowered and supported in their marriages?

Though there’s a decline in divorce, it’s also important to note that fewer people are choosing to tie the knot. Nonetheless, experts say those who do choose to walk down the aisle are in more stable marriages than before.

(Photo: SimplyMui/Corbis)

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