Reducing the Chance of Divorce

Most people know that the national divorce rate is close to 50 percent for the married population. For many people, however, the actual chances are much lower, according to the authors of the State of Our Unions, a report of the National Marriage Project.

Couples contemplating marriage, those already married, and the divorced or the divorcing may all find these factors to be of interest. They can serve as serious talking points. Couples in a serious relationship should give them consideration. These background factors have major implications for their risk of divorce.

Here are some decreases (in percent) in the risk of divorce or separation during the first ten years of marriage:

  • Annual income over $50,000 (vs. under $25,000): -30 percent.
  • Having a baby seven months or more after marriage (vs. before marriage: -24 percent.
  • Marrying after 25 years of age (vs. under 18) -24 percent.
  • Family of origin intact (vs. divorced parents) -14 percent.
  • Religious affiliation (vs. none): -14 percent.
  • College (vs. high school dropout): -25 percent.

Put together, these factors suggest that an educated person with a decent income, from an intact family who observes a religion and marries after age 25 without having a baby in hand has a much lower chance of divorce.

The “close to 50 percent” – that magic number so often quoted in the media – refers to the percentage of marriages in a particular year that are projected to end in divorce or separation before one spouse dies. These projections assume that the divorce and death rates occurring that year continue indefinitely, an assumption useful more as an indicator of the instability of marriages in the recent past than as a predictor of future events. The divorce rate has been dropping, slowly, since peaking around 1980.

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