Posted by: bridget | 20 September 2007

Women More Likely to Divorce, Census Says (Edited)

The Census published the results of a study about marriage, divorce, and the longevity of marriages recently.  The most important part of the survey indicated that less than half of marriages make it to 25 years, due to either divorce, separation, or widowhood.  (Note, however, that the survey was taken in 2004, so slightly less than 10% of those married during the 1970s were not able to report on whether or not they reached their 25th anniversary.  Once that is factored in, 53% of couples married during the 1970s have reached their 25th anniversary.)  Women are more likely to divorce (or be widowed):

About 80 percent of first marriages that took place in the late 1950s lasted at least 15 years. Among people who married in the late 1980s for the first time, however, only 61 percent of the men and 57 percent of the women were married 15 years later.

The NYT article has a slew of statistics regarding marriage which reveal some sort of differences between men and women.  Most of them are for second-time marriages, overall marriage rate, or the like (where a distinction between men and women can logically be drawn – ex. men who divorce may be more likely to remarry a second time, thus reducing the number of men who eventually marry, and increasing women’s divorce rate). 

PG kindly found the original data from the Census (here) and cleared some a massive amount of confusion. 

Interestingly, at every level, men were more likely to be married than women.  Whether this is due to a discrepancy in remarriage rates or life expectancy (the Census seems to conflate those who are divorced and those who are widowed: if Annie and Al wed, they would be treated as “not wed” 15 years later if divorced or if Al died – thus, women, by virtue of a longer life expectancy, will have a lower chance of being wed). 


  1. I just had to laugh. I’m with you.

  2. Did they include gay marriages?

  3. And I don’t mean happy ones….

  4. Er, obviously not, because they were taken from the 1970s. Gay marriage started in 2004 in Massachusetts.

  5. What if the women were more likely to have married more than once during the timespan in question?

    That is, suppose women are letters and men are numbers. In 1985, A married 1, B married 2, C married 3, and D married 4. In 1986, A and 1 divorced, and A married 5 that same year. 1 had discovered he was gay and didn’t remarry. Thus of the women who had first marriages 1985-1989, only B, C and D (3/4 = 75%) were married 15 years later. But of the men who had first marriages 1985-1989, 2, 3, 4 and 5 (4/5 = 90%) were married 15 years later.

  6. PG:

    I would agree, except I’m pretty sure the statistic was for people married to their original partners. If it’s the first marriage for both, it doesn’t make sense.

    Your analysis explains the other discrepancies in the data set (i.e. men who divorce are more likely to remarry; fewer men than women marry at some point – basically, men marry, divorce, and remarry, while women are less likely to remarry).

  7. theobromophile,

    Neither the NYT article you quote nor the Census’s table specifies that it had to have been a first marriage for both bride and groom. It is divided into First Marriages, statistics for men, and First Marriages, statistics for women. See Table 2 at the link (which is the same table the Times reproduced).

  8. So you found the actual stats – thank you!

    That clears something up.

    I do find it interesting, though, to look through the data. There are about 20% more women in the 1950s era marriages. They also don’t disaggregate divorce and death in Table 2 – thus, at the end of 15 years, 80.3% of men and 79.4% of women who were married between 1955 and 1959 were still wed, but that splits to 61.4% and 54.7%, respectively, by the golden anniversary.

    I guess I’m surprised that there would be enough second marriages among people in the late 60s to account for the discrepancy – apparently, quite a few men on their second marriage wed a woman who had never been married.

    Nevertheless…. women are more likely to divorce. ;)

  9. Sorry I don’t comment here more often. Anyway, you made good points. Maybe women are more likely to divorce because of the pressure men put on them. I don’t know..after living with my inlaws and seeing how my bro in law is–I am surprised they are still married. He ttly expects her to do everything and all he has to do is go to work. I think that most men are that way. No wonder women want out. I mean, what century do we live in?? Geesh.

    Thanks for the post. It was entertaining.

  10. The most important part of the survey indicated that less than half of marriages make it to 25 years, due to either divorce, separation, or widowhood. No quarrel with those stats.

    See clarification.

  11. Thank you for that, PG.

    I’ll edit.

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