Worldwide Divorce Statistics

Aug 8, 2012 by

Worldwide Divorce Rates ““ Top 20
Countries with Highest Divorce Rates per Capita

1. Belarus 68%
2. Russian Federation 65%
3. Sweden 64%
4. Latvia 63%
5. Ukraine 63%
6. Czech Republic 61%
7. Belgium 56%
8. Finland 56%
9. Lithuania 55%
10. United Kingdom 53%
11. Moldova 52%
12. United States 49%
13. Hungary 46%
14. Canada 45%
15. Norway 43%
16. France 43%
17. Germany 41%
18. Netherlands 41%
19. Switzerland 40%
20. Iceland 39%
21. Kazakhstan 39%

Many current divorce statistics studies estimate that the divorce rate in the United States is hovering right around 50%, with nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce. In an international study of countries with the highest divorce rates, the U.S. takes its spot at Number 12 with a 49% divorce rate, and just about as close to 50% as you can get. Even though many sources seem to agree on the half-and-half rate of marriage and divorce in this country, there is growing debate about the accuracy of the numbers. Some researchers have suggested the 50% number is just plain wrong and based on flawed math.

The 50% figure for the U.S. has most often been calculated using a very simple method of comparing the total number of marriages to the total number of divorces per 1000 people in any given year. The math is pretty straightforward. If there were 10 marriages and 5 divorces occurring within the 1000 people sampled, the number of divorces equals half the number of the marriages, or 50%. Looking at the numbers this way suggests that half of the 10 marriages that year will end in divorce. But that is not really the case.

Perhaps none of the 10 marriages that year ended in divorce, and all of them lasted several years instead. There were 5 divorces accounted for, but the divorcing couples could have been married for several years prior to splitting up. The couples who got married were not the same couples who got divorced. Yes, there were 10 marriages and 5 divorces in our example year, and you could interpret that as 50% failure, but it is not really accurate. A more accurate percentage would be derived if you knew exactly how many people who ever got married eventually got divorced. You can’t just take the raw totals from one year and get meaningful results because people of different ages and generations have different rates of divorce. Income and education also affect the divorce rate, as people with higher education have higher incomes and lower divorce rates than those without. The same holds true for married couples with children, they have a different and lower rate of divorce than couples without children.

Looking at how many aging marriages eventually result in divorce, as opposed to looking only at same-year totals, yields a figure of about 40% as the overall divorce rate for the United States. People belonging to certain age and demographic groups probably do have a divorce rate of nearly 50%, but there are other groups that definitely do not. For example, studies have shown that marriages after 1975 have a better chance of lasting a decade than marriages prior to 1975. In the case of education, college graduates who got married between 1990 and 1995 have been shown to have a divorce rate of just over 15%. The conclusion is that there are various differing divorce rates for different groups of people within the total population, and most of them are not nearly as high as 50%.

One of the biggest obstacles in calculating the national divorce rate has been the lack of availability and comparable accuracy of the raw data. Divorces (and marriages) in the United States are governed almost exclusively by state laws, and the states do not all collect the same data, do not record and store the same data, and in some cases don’t collect the data at all. Prior to 1996 the National Center for Health Statistics collected detailed information on divorcing couples in the nation. Since then, most divorce data has been gathered from widely differing individual sources that collect and evaluate their own numbers differently. The result is like comparing apples, oranges, strawberries and bananas and trying to come up with one number that works for them all. You might be able come up with a number, but that number may not be very accurate in the real world.

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