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Marriage And Divorce Chart: A 144-Year History
You hear a lot of different things about marriage and divorce statistics. Half of all marriages end in divorce. Marriage rates are declining. Etc., etc., etc. But Randy Olson, a self-described “data tinkerer,” has laid it all out for us from just before 1870 to the present day using statistics from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. You can view the full charts here, but here are some of the key takeaways.

  • Divorce rates are significantly down since the 1980s as are marriage rates. Per 1,000 people, there were around 5.0 divorces in 1980, while that number has fallen to approximately 3.0 in the 2010s. As for marriages, there were around 11.0 in 1980 compared to around 7.0 in the present day.
  • There was a marriage and divorce spike at the end of World War II, likely due to rush marriages that were dissolved at the end of the war when the parties discovered they were too different from one another to make things work.
  • There was a significant dip in the marriage rate during both the Great Depression and the Great Recession, indicating that times of economic hardship cause couples to delay or avoid marriage altogether.
  • In the entire 144-year history, the needles hasn’t moved much, going from less than one marriage per 1,000 people to around 3.0. However, there has been significant fluctuation during the in-between period with the most considerable changes occurring post-1900.
  • Last but not least, Olson examined the raw numbers in the amount of divorces/marriages (not per capita) and found that in the present day there has been around 2.1 million marriages compared to around 900,000 divorces, making for an actual divorce rate of around 42.8 percent.

144 years of marriage and divorce in the US

While statistics are not the only factors in determining if your marriage will work out, they can show you how society is going as a whole, and Olson has done a fantastic job of giving us the long and short of it. Knowing this information, does it affect how you think about marriage and divorce and your willingness to take part in either one? Sound off in the comments section!

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