By Divorce.com staff
Updated Apr 12, 2023
Statistical data concerning divorce and marriage in California is challenging to find. We’ve gathered all the relevant facts and numbers on divorces and factors influencing divorce rates in this comprehensive report.
Let’s dive right in.
Divorce Rate in California
Despite the popular opinion that California has more divorces than other states, its divorce rate has been among the lowest in recent years. In 2021, there were 8.9% divorced people per 1,000 population. Later, by the end of 2022, it rose to an estimated 9.2%.
Below are a few brief facts about divorce rates in California:
- The proportion of divorced men is lower than women: 7.1%, compared to 10.5%, respectively.
- The highest number of divorced men are aged 65 and over (12.2%).
- The ethnic group with the highest divorce rate is Black or African American (12%), while Asians dissolve their marriage the least often of all other races (5.8%).
- The median age at first divorce is 30.5 for men and 29 for women.
Divorce Rate by Year in California
The statistical data from American Community Survey, released each year, shows that the divorce rate in California has been steadily declining since 2014, when there were 9.8% of divorces per 1,000 population of both genders.
- 2014: 9.8%
- 2015: 9.5%
- 2016: 9.4%
- 2017: 9.3%
- 2018: 9.2%
- 2019: 9.3%
- 2020: 9.0%
- 2021: 8.9%
The percentage of divorced men is notably lower than women in each given year. The data was calculated for individuals older than 15.
Divorce Rate in California Counties
The California divorce rate of 8.9% is an average value obtained from all 58 counties. Let’s take a look at the most densely populated ones.
The data below shows divorce rates in each county in California for people older than 15.
- Los Angeles County 8.2%
- San Diego County 9.9%
- Orange County 9.2%
- Riverside County 9.5%
- San Bernardino County 9.5%
- Santa Clara County 7.4%
- Alameda County 8.2%
- Sacramento County 11.3%
- Contra Costa County 9.5%
- Fresno County 9.3%
- Kern County County 9.3%
- San Francisco County 7.9%
- Ventura County 9.4%
- San Joaquin County 8.9%
- San Mateo County 8.5%
- Stanislaus County 10%
- Sonoma County 12.8%
- Shasta County 13.8%
- Tulare County 8.8%
- Solano County 10.5%
- Butte County 11.8%
- Santa Cruz County 10.7%
- Santa Barbara County 9%
A County with the Highest Divorce Rate
Judging from the available data above, the county with the highest divorce rate in California is Shasta County, whose divorce rate is 13.8%.
Then, male and female divorce rates differ following the same pattern seen statewide. For instance, the men’s divorce rate in Shasta county is 12.6%, while the women’s is 14.9%.
Some researchers attribute the high divorce rates to such factors as relatively high financial stability, enabling ex-spouses’ to live in separate households and sustain themselves. However, women are affected more than men financially due to income disparity.
Another factor may be linked to the ethnic groups’ distribution and divorce rates. For example, most of Shasta County’s population are White (85.12%), who get divorced more often than other groups, excluding African Americans.
The County with the Lowest Divorce Rate
Santa Clara has the lowest divorce rate in California at 7.4%, with 5.9% divorced men and 9% divorced women.
Following the same assumption that divorce rates can be linked to the county’s ethnic group composition, Santa Clara has such a low percentage of divorces because the majority of its population is White (41.64%) and Asian (37.67%). While Whites tend to divorce more than most groups, Asians tend to divorce the least, which may bring down the numbers.
Divorce Rate in California Cities
Let’s look at the list of the biggest cities in California and their divorce rates
- Los Angeles 8.1%
- San Diego 9.7%
- San Jose 7.8%
- San Francisco 7.9%
- Fresno 10.2%
- Sacramento 11.1%
- Long Beach 9.3%
- Oakland 9.6%
- Bakersfield 9.5%
- Anaheim 8.2%
- Irvine 7.5%
- Stockton 8.7%
- Riverside 8.6%
- Santa Ana 7.6%
- Chula Vista 8.1%
- Santa Clarita 8.8%
- Fremont 5.6%
- San Bernardino 9.4%
- Modesto 11%
- Moreno Valley 8.5%
- Fontana 7.8%
- Oxnard 8.1%
- Redding 15%
- Roseville 11.4%
The City with the Highest Divorce Rate
Among the biggest cities in California, Redding, the largest city in Shasta County, has the highest divorce rate—15%. These findings are consistent with the county’s number one divorce rate in California.
In addition, women have higher divorce rates—17%, compared to 14% divorced men in Redding.
The City with the Lowest Divorce Rate
Fremont, the largest city in Alameda County, has the lowest percentage of divorces per 1,000 people in California, only 5.6%.
If we look at the marital status of men and women, they follow a similar pattern to the rest of the state. Namely, 4.4% of men are divorced, which is lower than 6.8% of women.
Divorce Rate for Families with Kids in California
The 2021 1-year Community Survey estimated the number of divorces involving underage children. According to the data, 18.4% of males and 37.7% of females with children under 18 years dissolved their marriages in 2021.
Statistically, 63.7% of children live with two parents in California. However, Living Arrangement analysis demonstrated that only 8.1% stay with fathers, while 23.7% live with their mothers.
Out of all the counties that provided information on the family structure, the most significant share of one-parent families live in the following counties:
- King’s County 43%
- Kern County 37%
- Los Angeles County 36.2%
- San Bernardino 36.5%
- Santa Barbara 34.8%
- Fresno 40.7%
- Stanislaus 37.2%
- Solano 31.9%
Divorce Rate by Ethnicity in California
The latest data from the American Community Review for 2021 suggests that the highest share of divorces occurs in Black or African American ethnic groups.
Conversely, the lowest divorce rate in California is among Asians.
- White 11.2%
- Black or African American 12%
- American Indian 9.2%
- Asian 5.8%
- Native Hawaiian 8.6%
- Hispanic or Latino origin 6.8%
Divorce Rate by Religion in California
Religious affiliation is another significant factor influencing the number of divorces. For instance, some studies found that the counties with a concentration of evangelical Protestants have the highest divorce rate.
Other surveys, such as a Pew Research study on marital status and religion, also show that Catholic and Historically Black Protestant groups also have high numbers of marriage dissolutions:
- Buddhist 10%
- Catholic 12%
- Evangelical Protestant 14%
- Hindu 5%
- Historically Black Protestant 19%
- Mainline Protestant 12%
- Muslim 8%
- Orthodox Christian 9%
- No Religion 11%
In California, the dominant religion is Christianity (63%), with the largest groupings as 28% Catholics and 20% Evangelical Protestants. Some other groups include:
- Evangelical Protestant 20%
- Catholic 28%
- Mainline Protestant 2%
- Orthodox Christian 1%
- Historically Black Protestant 2%
- Muslim 1%
- Hindu 2%
- Buddhist 2%
- No Religion 27%
Divorce Rates of Same-Sex Marriages in California
California is among the top 10 states with the highest number of same-sex households. Following the data from a 2021 American Community Center provided in annual tables, the percentage of total same-sex households in California was 1.2%, and 62.6% of these couples were married.
According to the UCLA School of Law report, 1.6% of same-sex marriages and 1.0% of civil unions among same-sex partners in California dissolve each year.
Divorce Rates by a Political Party in California
The Institute of Family Studies research provides a surprising insight into the stability and happiness of different families depending on their political views.
Mainly, the study argues that Republicans are 7% happier in their marriages than democrats and, thus, are more likely to stay married.
California also adheres to these findings. In 2022, 46.8% of registered voters in California were Democrats, and 23.9% were Republicans. As for the counties with the highest divorce rates, most of them were Democratic:
Marriage Rate in California
The marriage rate in California is one of the lowest in the country. For instance, by analyzing the available data on the number of marriages, we can observe a slight decrease since 1990.
Many researchers traditionally explain such fluctuations by major economic events and the level of stability in society.
In 2020, there were only 3.2 new marriages per 1,000 people. However, the percentage of married Californians looks reassuring: 47.9% of men and 45% of women were married in 2021.
Here are a few brief facts about marriage in California:
- California’s latest estimated marriage rate is 47.9% for men and 45% for women.
- Men get married later than women. The median age at first marriage is 31.1 years for men and 29.4 for women.
- 62% of adults in California strongly favor same-sex marriage, while 32% have opposing views.
- Roughly 25% of marriages in California are interracial.
Average Age of Marriage in California
The median age when people get married for the first time in the U.S. has been increasing since the second part of the twentieth century, and California is no exception. In 2008, U.S. citizens tied the knot at 26-28 years old. In 2020, women married at 28.1, and men married at 30.5 on average.
In California, the average age of marriage was one of the highest, according to Bowling Green State University research: 31.1 years for men and 29.4 for women. California also shared the 8th place with Maryland, staying in the top ten states with the highest age at first marriage in the U.S.
The number of married people differs depending on their age. For instance, the highest percentage of women (63.5%) are married at age 45-54. As for men, the vast majority (68.6%) remain married at the age of 65:
Average Length of Marriage in California
The American Community Survey (ACS) estimated the median length of marriage in California as 19.7 years for opposite-sex couples as of 2021. The duration of same-sex marriages was much shorter than that.
For instance, male same-sex couples stay married for 7.3 years on average, while female same-sex marriages last around 7.4 years.
Marriage Rate by Year in California
California marriage rates have also dropped from 7.9 marriages per 1,000 people in 1990 to 3.2 in 2020. Some scholars believe this downward trend is attributed to California’s financial insecurity and high living costs.
The yearly marriage rates in California are represented below:
- 2010: 5.8
- 2011: 5.8
- 2012: 6
- 2013: 6.5
- 2014: 6.4
- 2015: 6.2
- 2016: 6.5
- 2017: 6.3
- 2018: 6
- 2019: 5.7
- 2020: 3.2
Marriage Rate in California Counties
Of all 58 counties in California, Sierra County has the highest marriage rate at 56.96%, and San Francisco County has the lowest marriage rate at 39.7%. However, San Francisco County has also experienced a rise in marriage licenses by 23% since 2019, so the figures are not final.
- Los Angeles County 42.9%
- San Diego County 47.7%
- Orange County 50.0%
- Riverside County 48.6%
- San Bernardino County 45.9%
- Santa Clara County 52.8%
- Alameda County 48.6%
- Sacramento County 46.0%
- Contra Costa County 51.8%
- Fresno County 44.5%
- Kern County 46.1%
- San Francisco County 39.7%
- Ventura County 49.2%
- San Joaquin County 47.5%
- San Mateo County 52.6%
- Stanislaus County 48.2%
- Sonoma County 48.7%
- Tulare County 47.3%
- Solano County 49.0%
- Sierra County 56.96%
- Santa Barbara County 45.0%
Marriage Rate in California Cities
Marriage rates in the largest California cities vary from around 39% to 61%. Let’s look more closely at each of them.
- Los Angeles 39.1%
- San Diego 44.4%
- San Jose 50.6%
- San Francisco 39.7%
- Fresno 40.1%
- Sacramento 41.2%
- Long Beach 38.5%
- Oakland 38.1%
- Bakersfield 46.4%
- Anaheim 45.5%
- Irvine 50.7%
- Stockton 42.4%
- Riverside 42%
- Santa Ana 43.6%
- Chula Vista 51.2%
- Santa Clarita 53%
- Fremont 61.1%
- San Bernardino 36.5%
- Modesto 46.5%
- Moreno Valley 44.3%
- Fontana 47.5%
- Oxnard 43.6%
- Redding 43%
- Roseville 54%
As we can observe, Fremont has the highest marriage rate in California. But interestingly, it also has the lowest divorce rate in the state, almost making it the happiest city in California regarding family ties.
On the other hand, San Bernardino, with 36.5% of married people, is the city with the lowest marriage rate in California.
Same-Sex Marriage Statistics in California
In 2021, the number of married same-sex couples in California was around 102,587, according to the census.gov tables of household types. In addition, there were more all-male couples (55,960) than all-female ones (46,627).
Compared to 2020, the number of same-sex marriages in 2021 increased by 23.6% in total. Specifically, male couples married 22% more often, while the marriage rate for females rose by 26%.
Rates for Civil Unions in California
The difference between civil unions (or domestic partnerships) from marriages is that they are not recognized by the federal government but are recognized and governed by state laws.
Statistical reports for marital status in California estimate the number of civil unions to be equal to 1,062,546. Of these, 94% are opposite-sex couples, and 6% are same-sex partners.
Interracial Marriage Statistics in California
California is one of the leading states in interracial marriages. In particular, higher numbers of marriages between spouses of different ethnic groups are seen in metropolitan areas.
Studies by Pew Research show that about 22% of marriages in the Los Angeles metropolitan area were interracial. Likewise, 30% of newlyweds in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, 29% in Stockton, and 27% in the San Diego area intermarried.
Here’s a brief list of the percentage of interracial marriages by metropolitan area in California:
- Los Angeles 22%
- Salinas 16%
- San Diego 27%
- Stockton-Lodi 29%
- Sacramento 26%
- Santa Barbara-Santa Maria 29%
- San Francisco-Oakland 26%
- Riverside 25%
California has a relatively low divorce rate of 9.2% per 1,000 people and is likely to decline in the absence of major socio-economic events.
Overall, divorce is more common for people aged 50 years and older, in Black or African American groups, and of couples who are Catholic or who have Atheist views.
Additionally, it turns out that men statistically get married later than women and are less likely to initiate proceedings and get divorced. If minor children are involved, only one child in five stays with the father.