Divorce Rate in America: 35 Stunning Stats for 2020

We’ve all suffered from heartbreak, and it’s never a particularly pleasant subject. 

That being said:

The divorce rate in America provides an insight into today’s relationships. Knowing what percentage of marriages end in divorce and when divorce is most likely to occur is important for all of us.

You might be wondering:

What is the current divorce rate in the US?

Here’s the deal: 

While the US divorce rate has remained relatively stable over recent years, it has actually declined in the long-term. As the following stats show, however, the divorce rate in the United States in 2019 doesn’t necessarily provide the full picture of marital success, separations, and relationship breakdowns.

  • The current divorce rate in the US is 2.9 persons per 1,000 people.
  • Overall, the rate of divorces in America is falling.
  • Divorces amongst people aged 50+ years is rising.
  • Fewer couples choose to marry than pre-1990.
  • The U.S. divorce rate is amongst one of the highest in the world.
  • There are currently over 750,000 divorces in the U.S. each year.
  • Most Americans who file for divorce do so between January and March.

Divorce Rates in America Statistics 2019

1. The divorce rate in America is 2.9 per 1,000.  

(Source: CDC)

According to the CDC, the current divorce rate is just 2.9 per 1,000. However, only 45 states and the District of Columbia submitted enough data to be considered in this nationwide study. As Indiana, California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Minnesota are not counted, there may be some variation on this figure.

2. Recent divorce rates suggest a decrease in the number of people dissolving their marriage. 

(Source: Statista)

The divorce rate has increased since 1960. But since 1990, there has been a downward trend in divorce statistics. This suggests divorce rates over time are changing drastically, as are marriage and cohabitation trends. By assessing the divorce rate statistics by year, it’s easy to see that the rate of divorce in the US is on a general decline. 

3. More people in the US were married in 2018 than in 1960. 

(Source: Statista)

Despite the overall long-term increase in divorce rates in America, more US residents were married in 2018 than in 1960. This may highlight the effect an increasing population has on the statistics on marriage and divorce. 

4. Over three-quarters of a million divorces took place in the US in 2017. 

(Source: Statista)

In 2017, approximately 787,251 divorces were granted in America, which means that around one and a half million people got divorced that year. As the national divorce rates continue to fall, it’s likely that the number of divorces in the US per year will continue to fall in the future. 

5. Remarriage increases the risk of divorce.

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

 According to the Census Bureau, the rate of divorce increases in relation to how many times you marry. This means, the more you marry, the more likely you are to divorce. 

6. There is a seasonal spike in divorces in the US.

(Source: University of Washington)

More people file for a divorce between January and March than at any other time of year. Some researchers believe this represents the perceived strain on familial relationships over the holiday period. 

7. Divorce rates vary dramatically from state to state.

(Source: Statista)

The lowest divorce rate by state occurs in Illinois and Louisiana, with rates of just 1.9 per 1,000 people. Conversely, the states with the highest divorce race are Nevada and Oklahoma, with 4.5 and 4.1 per 1,000 people, respectively. 

8. The average length of a marriage in the US is 8.2 years. 

(Source: New York State Department of Health) 

Whilst the national average marriage length is just over eight years, couples in New York typically have the longest-lasting unions. The typical marriage in the Empire State lasts for 12.2 years, which is significantly higher than the national average. In fact, some scholars estimate that the actual number is closer to seven years, as the divorce process can take around one year to complete.

But it’s not all bad news:

9. The likelihood of divorce might be less than you think. 

(Source: Politifact)

The most common question surrounding divorce in the United States is: 

What percentage of marriages end in divorce? 

Here’s the kicker:

Many people believe that this figure is around 50%. However, the actual percentage of marriages that end in divorce in the US varies between 40% and 50%. This means that you are more likely to stay married than you are to dissolve your marriage. Good news!

And that’s not all:

10. The divorce rate today is lower than a decade ago. 

(Source: Statista)

The divorce rate in America in 2018 and 2019 is significantly lower than in 2008 and 2009. Despite a slight increase in 2011-12, the divorce rate has fallen overall throughout the last decade. 

11. The national divorce rate for adults aged between 25-39 years is 24 per 1,000 persons.

(Source: Pew Research Center)

For adults aged between 40-49 years of age, it’s 21 per 1,000 persons. In contrast, the divorce rate amongst adults aged 50+ years is 10 in 1,000 persons. When looking at divorce rates by age groups, it’s clear that there are significant differences between demographics. 

12. The rate of divorce after 10 years is 48% for those who marry before the age of 18. 

(Source: Statista)

But the rate is just 25% for those who marry after the age of 25. For people who marry between the ages of 20-25, there is a 44%-60% chance of the union ending in divorce. 

Key takeaway:

These statistics confirm that the age of the couple at the time of marrying does impact subsequent divorce rates. 

13. “Gray divorce” rates have risen dramatically over the last 30 years. 

(Source: Pew Research Center)

Amongst adults aged 50+, the national divorce rate has roughly doubled since 1990. For those aged 65+, it has actually tripled, from 2 in 1,000 married persons to 6 in 1,000. This indicates that people over the age of 50 are more likely to get divorced now than ever before. 

14. Successful marriage statistics are on the increase.

(Source: CDC)

As divorce rates continue to reduce overall, successful marriage statistics increase accordingly. With a 40-50% chance of a marriage in the US ending in divorce, there is a 50%-60% chance that the marriage will not be dissolved. So, people who marry today stand a much better chance of having a successful marriage than ever before!

15. Ages 28-32 could be the best time to get married.

(Source: CDC)

As we know by now, divorce rates vary by age. But there isn’t a linear trend that shows divorce rates increase or decrease as you get older. Still, people who get married in their late-twenties or early-thirties are statistically less likely to get divorced.

16. People are 75% more likely to end their marriage if a friend is divorced. 

(Source: SSRN)

Having friends who are divorced can greatly increase your chances of becoming divorced yourself, according to a research team from Brown University. Whilst you are 75% more likely to end your own marriage if you are friends with a divorcee, you are 33% more likely to get divorced if you have a friend of a friend who has formally ended a marriage.

17. Second marriages have a higher rate of divorce.

(Source: Divorce Statistics)

While the rate for first marriages is 40%-50%, second marriage statistics show this increases to 67% for second marriages and a whopping 75% for third marriages. When it comes to a happy union, the third time clearly isn’t a charm. 

18. Divorce rates may not give the true picture. 

(Source: CDC)

Although divorce rates have fallen in recent years, marriage rates have dropped, too. When comparing marriage vs divorce statistics, it is important to assess the rates in context. In the 1990s, the national marriage rate in America was 9.8 people per 1,000. Currently, it is 6.9 per 1,000. With more couples living together without formalizing their union, the rate of divorce cannot accurately represent the number of long-term relationship breakdowns. 

19. Separation doesn’t count in terms of divorce statistics.

(Source: CDC)

The majority of people who separate do go on to divorce, but that’s not always the case.

Check this out:

91% of white women who are separated will divorce within three years, but this figure drops to 77% for Hispanic women and 67% for African-American women. As long-term separation is not counted in most divorce statistics, the rate of marriage breakdowns could be higher than divorce rates suggest. 

20. Education may impact divorce rates. 

(Source: U.S. National Center for Health Statistics)

The average marriage failure rate varies depending on each spouse’s level of education. 78% of women with bachelor’s degrees who married for the first time in 2006-2010 can expect their marriage to last for at least 20 years. In contrast, 49% of women with some college education and 40% of women with a high school diploma or less can expect their marriage to last for the same period. 

21. Are education-related divorce rates skewed? 

(Source: U.S. National Center for Health Statistics)

Even though education-related divorce rate statistics imply that a higher level of education equates to less chance of divorce, this may not show the full picture. People who get a college degree before marrying are likely to be a few years older than those with just a high school. So, the statistics relating to education and divorce could be influenced by the age of each spouse and have more to do with divorce rates for young couples, as opposed to their educational experience.

22. Millennial divorce rate is lower than those of their predecessors. 

(Source: American Community Survey)

People born between 1981 and 1996 are showing lower rates of divorce than older age groups. However, the millennial divorce rate may be impacted by the fact that this demographic typically chooses to marry at a later age and many forego marriage in favor of cohabitation. As earlier generations typically got married at a younger age and were less likely to cohabit, this could contribute to the lower divorce rate amongst millennials. 

23. Millenials are more cautious about marriage.

(Source: Bloomberg)

The decreasing marriage rates in the US may not signify a general dislike of the institution but rather a more cautious approach. 

The thing is:

The generational gap in divorce rates may be partly due to the fact many millenials complete further education and begin their careers before tying the knot. While marriage and divorce rates in the US have fallen, the age at which millenials are choosing to marry is much higher when compared to pre-1980 statistics. 

24. Cohabiting can impact your risk of divorce. 

(U.S. National Center for Health Statistics)

Couples who do not cohabit before getting married are less likely to obtain a divorce within the first 20 years of their union. Men who live with their partner prior to marriage have a 49% chance of avoiding divorce for at least 20 years, while women who live with their partner before marrying have a 46% chance of remaining married for at least 20 years.

25. Divorce is less likely than cohabitee break-ups.

(Source: CDC)

There is a 20% chance of a first marriage resulting in divorce within five years. In comparison, couples who cohabit for five years have a 49% chance of separating. Similarly, married couples have a 33% chance of divorce within 10 years, whilst cohabiting couples have a 62% chance of splitting up in this timeframe. These statistics indicate that married couples are likely to remain together longer than couples who choose to cohabit but do not marry. 

26. Incompatibility is the leading cause of divorce in the US. 

(Source: Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts)

What is the #1 cause of divorce?

According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, the number one reason for divorce in America is “basic incompatibility.” 43% of research participants cited this reason as their primary decision to get a divorce. Infidelity and money issues were also highly relevant, with statistics showing that 28% and 22% of participants cited these reasons for obtaining a divorce. These causes of divorce statistics highlight the most common reasons for couples to request a divorce, although parenting differences, addiction, and abuse are commonly cited, too.

Divorce Rate in America - document

Same-sex Marriage and Divorce in the US.

27. Gay marriage divorce rate is still unclear.

(Source: UCLA School of Law)

The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law did publish data which suggested that the same-sex divorce rate was approximately half of the different-sex divorce rate. However, this was later retracted due to an error in the calculation of the data. Revised figures showed the gay marriage divorce rate was broadly the same as the heterosexual marriage divorce rate, in that around 2% of the population get divorced each year. 

28. Same-sex divorce data is still limited in the US.

(Source: McKinley Irvin Law)

As same-sex marriages were only recognized on a federal level in the US in 2013, there is still a lack of data regarding the rate of same-sex divorces. Over the next 10-20 years, divorce rates amongst same-sex couples are likely to become easier to gather. 

29. Same-sex divorce rates may not give a true picture of relationship breakdowns.

(Source: McKinley Irvin Law)

As different states introduced the formal recognition of same-sex unions in different ways and at different times, this could affect future same-sex divorce rates. Currently, a same-sex couple may have registered their union in more than one state. Upon their formal separation, they would need to dissolve their marriage in every jurisdiction. So, one couple could register multiple divorces that could skew future statistics. This is one of the reasons why divorce statistics vary from one source to another.

Divorce and Children in America

30. 52% of single parents have been married at some point.

(Source: Pew Social Trends)

Slightly more than half of single parents have been married. While some marriage dissolutions are due to the death of one spouse, this is indicative of a high number of children being raised by divorced parents.

31. 35% of parents who are now cohabiting were once married.

(Source: Pew Social Trends)

The Pew Research Center reports that over a third of cohabiting parents used to be married. This implies that a significant number of children are being raised by or living informal step-parents.

32. Children of divorce are more likely to become a divorcee.

(Source: Divorce Statistics)

Children of divorce statistics suggest that children whose parents divorce are four times more likely to get a divorce themselves in the future. Even though religious, moral, and socioeconomic factors play a role in this pattern, the statistics suggest that people are far more likely to obtain a divorce if their own parents were divorced.

Divorce Rate in America - child

US Divorce Rates Compared to the Rest of the World

33. US divorce rates are higher than those of other continents. 

(Source: Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research)

Comparative analysis shows that divorce rates in America are higher than in Europe. 

Now: 

Some European countries have fairly similar divorce rates to those in the US, while others have a far lower national divorce average. For Europe as a whole, this average falls below the respective US divorce rate. 

 34. The US has one of the highest crude divorce rates in the world.

(Source: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs)

With a crude divorce rate of 2.9 per 1,000 people, the of divorce in America is more common than in many other countries, including Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, and Mexico. 

35. America has the third highest divorce rate in the world.

(Source: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs)

According to the United Nations, the Maldives has the highest divorce rate, with 10.97 divorces taking place per 1,000 people each year. Belarus has the second highest worldwide divorce rate, with 4.63 per 1,000, followed by the US.

Divorce Rate in America - photo

Conclusion

The divorce rate in America provides a snapshot of the changing institute of marriage and the views of average Americans. 

Here’s the scoop:

Both the rate of divorce and the rate of marriage are falling. These statistics indicate that people are choosing more informal personal arrangements at the expense of formally recognized unions.   

Now:

Whether you view the divorce rate in America by year or the divorce rate by years of marriage, the statistics regarding marriage dissolution represent the changing views of society. Whereas marriage was once the norm, it is no longer seen as quite so critical.

Bottom line:

Although many people expected the divorce rate 1950-present to increase, it has done the opposite. In the same way, today’s predictions regarding the future figures may prove surprising.

Sources: