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Divorce Statistics in California

By Divorce.com staff
Updated Feb 13, 2024

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We’ve gathered all the relevant facts and numbers on divorces and factors influencing divorce rates in California in this comprehensive report.

Let’s dive right in.

Key Takeaways

  • Declining Divorce Rate: Contrary to popular opinion, California's divorce rate has steadily decreased since 2014, with 8.9% of individuals divorced in 2021.
  • Ethnic Influence on Divorce: Black or African American ethnic groups in California have the highest proportion of divorces, while Asians experience the lowest divorce rates.
  • Religious Affiliations Matter: Divorce rates vary significantly based on religious affiliations. Historically, Black Protestants and Evangelical Protestants have higher rates of marriage dissolutions compared to other religious groups.
  • Same-Sex Marriages: California is among the top ten states in the U.S. for the number of same-sex households, with over 62% of these couples being married.
  • County Variations: There are notable differences in divorce rates across California counties. For instance, Shasta County has the highest percentage of the divorced population at 14.3%, while Santa Clara County has the lowest at 7.3%.
  • Children and Divorce: In 2021, 18.4% of males and 37.7% of females with children under 18 years dissolved their marriages. The majority of children in California (63.7%) live with both parents, but a significant portion live with just one parent, predominantly their mothers.
divorce trends California

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. According to data.census.gov, in 2021, 8.9% of people were divorced.

divorce rate California

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%.
  • 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.

Percentage of Divorced People by Year in California

Percentage of Divorced People by Year in California

The statistical data from data.census.gov, released annually, indicates that the number of divorced individuals in California has been steadily declining since 2014, when 9.8% of individuals from both genders were divorced.

  • 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.

divorced men and women ca

Percentage of the Divorced Population in California Counties

The percentage of the divorced population in California represents an average value from all 58 counties. Let's examine the most densely populated ones.

Percentage of the Divorced Population in California Counties
  • Los Angeles County – 8.2%
  • San Diego County – 9.9%
  • Orange County – 9.2%
  • Riverside County – 9.3%
  • San Bernardino County – 9.5%
  • Santa Clara County – 7.3%
  • Alameda County – 8.2%
  • Sacramento County – 11.1%
  • Contra Costa County – 9.5%
  • Fresno County – 9.3%
  • Kern County – 9.3%
  • San Francisco County – 7.9%
  • Ventura County – 9.7%
  • San Joaquin County – 8.9%
  • San Mateo County – 8.5%
  • Stanislaus County – 9.9%
  • Sonoma County – 12.5%
  • Shasta County – 14.3%
  • Tulare County – 8.8%
  • Solano County – 10.5%
  • Butte County – 11.6%
  • Santa Cruz County – 10.7%
  • Santa Barbara County – 9.0%

A County with The Highest Percentage of Divorced Population

Based on the data provided above, Shasta County has the highest percentage of the divorced population in California at 14.3%.

A County with The Highest Percentage of Divorced Population

The percentage of divorced men is lower than that of women: 13.0% versus 15.5%.

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.

A County with The Lowest Percentage of Divorced Population

Santa Clara County has the lowest percentage of the divorced population in California, with an overall rate of 7.3% — comprising 5.9% divorced men and 8.8% divorced women.

A County with The Lowest Percentage of Divorced Population

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 Statistics 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 their fathers, while 23.7% live with their mothers.

Divorce Statistics by Ethnicity in California

The latest data from the American Community Survey for 2021 indicates that the highest proportion of divorces is found within the Black or African-American ethnic groups.

Conversely, Asians have the lowest percentage of the divorced population.

Divorce Statistics by Ethnicity in California
  • 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 Statistics 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.

Divorce Statistics by Religion in California

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%

Divorce Rates by a Political Party in California

The research from the Institute of Family Studies offers surprising insights into the stability and happiness of families based on their political views.

Specifically, the study suggests that Republicans are 7% happier in their marriages than Democrats, making them more likely to remain married. This trend is also reflected in California.

In 2022, 46.8% of registered voters in the state were Democrats, while 23.9% were Republicans.

Marriage Rate in California

The marriage rate in California is among the lowest in the country. An analysis of available data on the number of marriages shows a slight decline since 1990. Traditionally, researchers attribute such fluctuations to major economic events and societal stability.

Marriage Rate in California

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.
  • Roughly 25% of marriages in California are interracial.

Source: data.census.gov

The Average Age of Marriage in California

The median age at which people marry for the first time in the U.S. has been on the rise since the latter half of the twentieth century, and California follows this trend.

In 2008, U.S. citizens typically married between the ages of 26 and 28. By 2020, the average age for women was 28.1, while men married at an average age of 30.5.

According to research from Bowling Green State University, California had one of the highest average ages for first-time marriages: 31.1. years for men and 29.4. for women. The state also tied for 8th place with Maryland, ranking in the top ten states for the highest age at first marriage in the U.S.

Marriage rates vary by age group. For example, the highest percentage of married women (63.5%) falls within the 45-54 age bracket. For men, the majority (68.6%) are still married by age 65.

married people california percentages

The 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.

The Average Length of Marriage in California

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.

Marriage Rate by Year in California

The yearly marriage rates in California are represented below:

  • 2010: 5.8
  • 2011: 5.8
  • 2012: 6.0
  • 2013: 6.5
  • 2014: 6.4
  • 2015: 6.2
  • 2016: 6.5
  • 2017: 6.3
  • 2018: 6.0
  • 2019: 5.7
  • 2020: 3.2
  • 2021: 5.2

Same-Sex Marriage Statistics in California

In 2021, according to the census.gov tables on household types, there were approximately 102,587 married same-sex couples in California.

Furthermore, there were more all-male couples (55,960) than all-female couples (46,627).

Same-Sex Marriage Statistics in California

Compared to 2020, the number of same-sex marriages in 2021 saw an increase of 23.6% overall. Specifically, marriages among male couples increased by 22%, while those among female couples rose by 26%.

Rates for Civil Unions in California

The distinction between civil unions (or domestic partnerships) and marriages is that the former are not recognized by the federal government, but they are acknowledged and governed by state laws.

Statistical reports on marital status in California estimate the number of civil unions at 1,062,546. Of these, 94% involve opposite-sex couples, while 6% are same-sex partnerships.

Interracial Marriage Statistics in California

California is a leading state in terms of interracial marriages.

Specifically, metropolitan areas witness higher numbers of marriages between spouses from different ethnic groups. Studies from Pew Research indicate that approximately 22% of marriages in the Los Angeles metropolitan area are interracial.

Similarly, 30% of newlyweds in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, 29% in Stockton, and 27% in the San Diego area have intermarried.

Final Thoughts

California's marital landscape is influenced by a myriad of factors, including ethnicity, religion, and societal shifts. Contrary to popular belief, the state's divorce rate has been decreasing since 2014.

Ethnic and religious affiliations play pivotal roles in these trends, with Black or African American groups and certain religious sects like Evangelical Protestants experiencing higher divorce rates.

Notably, California ranks among the top states for same-sex marriages, reflecting its progressive stance. Understanding these dynamics becomes increasingly essential as relationships evolve in the Golden State.

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