We often hear the line that half of all marriages end in divorce. However, a deeper dig into divorce statistics shows that number is not necessarily accurate.
If you look at divorce trends over the past several decades, you’ll see that the divorce rate peaked in the 1980s and has been falling ever since. In 2016, the divorce rate dropped to its lowest point in nearly 40 years.
One of the reasons the 50% myth is so often repeated is that there is much confusion over how divorce rates are calculated. There is a lot of white noise when it comes to collecting divorce data and that makes it extremely challenging to come up with a valid measure of the country’s divorce rate.
What’s more is that the divorce rate can vary dramatically based on any number of socioeconomic factors.
Here are just a handful of the many factors that can affect your chances of divorce.
Age you marry
Research shows that the age in which you marry can increase, or decrease, your odds of eventually divorcing.
According to analysis conducted by Nicholas H. Wolfinger, Professor of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah, those who marry after their early 30s are more likely to divorce than those who tie the knot in their late 20s. Furthermore, his research shows your odds of divorce increase by 5% per year once you are past your early 30s.
It also appears there is a marriage sweet spot between the ages of 28 and 32 in which your odds of divorce are lowest.
Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics found that college-educated women have a nearly eight-in-10 chance of still being married after two decades. Another study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that those with a college degree are nearly 10 percentage points less likely to divorce.
Some researchers hypothesize that the reason for this link is that it takes more money and resources to maintain a marriage.
Divorce rates can vary substantially based on where you live.
For example, Nevada has the highest percent of residents who identify as divorce at 13.9% while New Jersey (8.5%) and New York (8.6%) tally the lowest percentage of divorcees.
According to a 2014 American Community Survey, black men and women are more likely to divorce than white men and women while people who identify as Asian have the lowest rates of divorce.
Hispanics are less likely than black or white men or women to divorce, but more likely to split than Asian couples.
Native-American men and women have the highest divorce rates (45% for female and 44% for men).
It is important to note that other factors could be affecting these rates. For example, people of color often face educational barriers, and lower education levels correlate to higher divorce odds.
Your parents’ marriage
Psychologists and researchers have generally found that children of divorce are more likely to divorce themselves.
However, as with most of these statistics, the details are a little murkier. A study in Marriage & Family Review found that the amount of parental conflict a child was exposed to had a larger effect on their odds of later divorcing than the actual event of their parents’ divorce.
Journalist Anneli Rufus researched studies that explored various divorce factors and found that 66% of the divorced couples in the U.S. are childless compared to the approximately 40% who have kids.
It is common for couples to try to salvage their marriage for the sake of their children. While that is a noble intent, and children’s best interests should be put first during the divorce process, it’s not a good idea to stay married if your relationship is broken.
As previously mentioned, parental conflict tends to lead to worse outcomes for children than a divorce in which the parents split on friendly terms. Just make sure you and your ex work together to form a healthy co-parenting relationship.
A recent study of 6,300 heterosexual couples discovered that when all other factors are equal, men not working full-time jobs were 33% more likely to divorce than men who were fully employed.
The study appears to say more about gender roles than economic status, because after adjusting for income, the figures remained the same. This seems to indicate that, for many marriages, it is important that the man fill the traditional role of breadwinner for the family.
Or, perhaps more specifically, arguments over money.
A 2012 study in Family Relations Journal found that money is the top predictor of divorce for both men and women.
Regardless of other financial factors — such as income, debt, or net worth — couples in the study who argued about money early in their relationships were at a greater risk for divorce.