How Bad Was the US Divorce Rate in 2013?

How Bad Was the US Divorce Rate in 2013?

We’ve all heard the supposed statistics that half of all marriages end in divorce. Are these statistics real, though? The problem with those statistics is that they go year by year. So, if 100 marriages happen in a given year, and 50 divorces occur, does that really mean that half of all marriages end in divorce? No, it doesn’t. Why? Because marriages are recorded in the year that they occur. So are divorces. A marriage that occurred, say, in 2013, didn’t necessarily end in the same year. The statistics are skewed.

That said, however, it can’t be disputed that divorce is a good deal more common these days than it was in our grandparents’ era, or even in our parents’ era.  You’ve probably heard people use the term “starter marriage,” or even refer to their spouse as “my first husband” or “my first wife.” That’s sad.

To get back to the point, though, how bad is it?

It’s Not as Bad as You Might Think

Over the past decade, divorce rates across the United States have pretty much held steady, and even dropped a bit from time to time. In 2011, the divorce rate was 3.6 for every thousand people. In 2000, it was at 4.0. People who value the institution of marriage may actually have reason to feel cautiously optimistic.

This contrasts sharply with figures from the 1980s, when it was actually true that half of all married couples ended up divorcing. Today, it’s more like 40%. It’s hard to say why this should be the case – maybe it’s because people are better educated, or maybe it’s because they wait longer and tend to live together before they get married. Whatever the reason, it seems as though we’re on a trend.

Who’s Getting Divorced?

Before we get excited, and say that we’re valuing marriage more than we used to, it might be advisable to look at who’s actually getting divorced. In the general population, the divorce rate is down, but it seems that people who might not typically be thought of as likely to divorce are splitting up more often. Among couples over the age of 50, divorce rates doubled between 1990 and 2010. Young marriages are actually more likely to survive, while older people are increasingly saying, “I’ve had enough and I want out.” Maybe it’s because baby boomers want to embrace their independence. The reasons can be myriad and often undefinable.

This is Interesting…

You might be surprised to know that your geographic location can actually make you more at risk for divorce.

Panama City, Florida, is practically the divorce capital of the United States. In fact, Florida seems to be a really troubled area. Jacksonville, Deltona and Palm Bay are also in the top ten cities most likely to be affected by divorce. You’re not much better off if you live in Sierra Vista, AZ (number 2 nationally), Charleston, WV (number 3), Medford, OR (number 4), Reno, NV (number 5), or Pueblo, CO (number 7). Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate. Nevada has the highest.

No one really knows why this is the case, and we’re just reporting the statistics, not trying to explain them.

Can Divorce Be Prevented?

Divorce attorneys, believe it or not, are saddened by marriage breakups. And although it’s not their job to act as marriage counselors, they frequently will try to serve as a sounding board for their clients and try to help them come to a solution that might actually repair the marriage.

Sometimes, just knowing what’s gone wrong in the marriage can go some way toward fixing it. So, what causes divorce? Usually it’s infidelity. Sometimes couples simply can’t stop fighting.  When children are involved, couples might try to stay together, but it seldom works. If a marriage is in deep trouble, the presence of children isn’t going to save it.


Sadly, sometimes divorce is just a fact of life. In the face of human pain, statistics don’t really mean much, or matter a whole lot.