Tying the knot in Kent County and breaking ties with the myths of divorce

divorceBy: Mike DeWitt

 

In a 15-year stretch from 2000-2014, according to Michigan’s Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Kent Country recorded 66,692 marriages and 31,580 divorces. When weighted per 1,000 country residents and compared with Michigan’s other 83 counties, Kent County residents have handled the new millennium well, ranking high in marriage rate and low in divorce rate.

 

•    9th-highest marriage rate in 2000 (17.3 per 1,000 residents)
•    20th-lowest divorce rate in 2000 (7.2 per 1,000 residents)
•    16th-highest marriage rate in 2014 (14.3 per 1,000 residents)
•    35th-lowest divorce rate in 2014 (6.4 per 1,000 residents)

 

While some will look at those numbers and smile, thinking of their own special day, others will take them in with a healthy dose of cynicism. After all, half of all marriages end in divorce, right? At least, that seems to be the shared belief in our culture when it comes to marriage and whether they actually last until “death do us part.”

 

But what if the 50 percent “fact” that has been perpetuated for all these years is nothing more than a myth? As it turns out, the divorce rate is no longer rising, it hasn’t been for some time, and half of all marriages actually do not end in divorce.

 

There was a time when the divorce rate was steadily climbing and 50 percent looked to be more than reasonable. However, that was back in the ’70s and ’80s, a peak in the divorce rate that looks to be the exception rather than the rule. In the three decades since then, the divorce rate has only creeped lower and lower. If trends continue, two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce.

Marriage and Divorce Rates over time in Michigan (blue) and the United States (red) Source: Michigan Division of Vital Records & Health Statistics
Marriage and Divorce Rates over time in Michigan (blue) and the United States (red) [Source: Michigan Division of Vital Records & Health Statistics]

So, what happened? Well, the 70’s and 80’s also coincide with the rise in a new feminist movement. With women gaining more societal confidence and power—add in the fact that women initiate two-thirds of all divorces— and you can start to connect the dots on why the divorce rate spiked. With both men and women adjusting to the newly refined roles and expectations, it makes sense that the divorce rate has been making its way down the mountain.

 

There are other reasons for a declining divorce rate that stem from people getting married later in life or not getting married at all. In Kent County, the marriage rate fell from 2000 to 2014. In fact, 73 of Michigan’s 83 counties experienced a drop in their marriage rate. An increase in societal acceptance for single family homes and living together before marriage, thus experiencing a breakup instead of a divorce, has had an impact on the reduction of marriages.

 

A big proponent to a falling marriage rate is economical. Now more than ever, people feel the need to be financially established and stable before they decide to take the plunge into marriage. With changing societal norms and expectations leading to more women in the workplace, it’s led to higher unemployment amongst men and fewer suitable bachelors for women to marry. Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times explains:

“Men are more likely than women to remain unmarried, 23 percent to 17 percent. Part of that is linked to the fact that the share of men aged 25 to 54 who are not working has been increasing for 50 years. At the same time, 78 percent of never-married women say that a mate with a steady job would be very important to them, more than any other quality in choosing a spouse. Pew analyzed the pool of employed, unmarried men, compared with all unmarried women. There are 65 employed men for every 100 women.

Blacks place more importance than whites on finding a partner with a steady job before marriage, according to Pew, and among unmarried young blacks, there are 51 employed men for every 100 women.”

 

A man without a degree is less likely to hold a stable job and less likely to be married. Marriage is no longer about survival, but has become a luxury.

 

While a lot of different factors contribute to a couple’s staying power, the amount of education is a strong indicator on whether a couple will last the test of time. Chances of divorce among people with colleges degrees is significantly less likely than those with a lower education, whose divorce rates hover closer to the numbers seen during the peak divorce years of the 70’s and 80’s.

 

The institution of marriage gets a bad rap when the “50 percent” myth is flung around recklessly. When you dive into the numbers, it’s crystal clear that there’s no rush! Get educated and take your time; the statistics say you’ll have a much better chance of making it until “death do us part.”

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