There’s this persistent myth in America that about half of all marriages end in divorce.
In fact, the figures are significantly lower, as new graphics by Nathan Yau of Flowing Data demonstrate.
Yau explains that this myth simply stems from bad math – dividing the divorce rate by the marriage rate in a given year. In 2014, there were 8.7 divorces and 17 marriages per 1,000 women in the United States, he says, citing figures from the American Community Survey. If you divide the first number by the second number, you get 51 percent.
The problem is that the people who are marrying each other in 2014 aren’t the same as the people who are divorcing each other in 2014. If you look at the data over a longer period of time, it becomes clear that the divorce rate is lower than half.
As Claire Cain Miller wrote at the Upshot, the divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining since then. In fact, if current marriage and divorce rate continues, only about one-third of American marriages will end in divorce, the Upshot’s Justin Wolfers has calculated.
But the rates are much higher for some groups than others, as Yau’s graphs show.
Here’s what the graph looks like for American men and women who have a high school education or less.
The graph shows the age of men and women along the horizontal axis and the percentage who have been divorced or married more than once on the vertical axis. These graphs are cumulative, so as you go from left to right they add in the people who have ever divorced or remarried at any age group, to reach the total percentage on the right hand side of the graph. As you can see, about 39 percent of men divorce or remarry in their lifetimes, compared to 37 percent of women.
And here’s what the graphic looks like for those with a bachelor’s degree. Perhaps predictably, the divorce and remarriage rates are lower, with roughly 29 percent of women and 28 percent of men with a bachelor’s degree getting divorced or remarried.
Yau also broke the divorce rates down by race. Here are the rates for whites:
The rates are slightly higher for blacks:
They are much lower Hispanics:
And lowest of all for Asians, with less than one-fifth of Asian-Americans getting divorced and remarried:
The highest rates of the bunch belong to Native Americans:
You can see more graphics, including a breakdown of divorce rates for employed and unemployed Americans, on Yau’s site, here.
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