Last week’s release of new divorce statistics led to a smorgasbord of reporting feeding the myth. This newspaper warned readers, “Don’t stock up on silver anniversary cards” because “women and men who married in the late 1970s had a less than even chance of still being married 25 years later.” And apparently things are getting worse, as “the latest numbers suggest an uptick in the divorce rate among people married in the most recent 20 years covered in the report, 1975-1994.” Other major newspapers ran similar articles.
The story of ever-increasing divorce is a powerful narrative. It is also wrong. In fact, the divorce rate has been falling continuously over the past quarter-century, and is now at its lowest level since 1970. While marriage rates are also declining, those marriages that do occur are increasingly more stable. For instance, marriages that began in the 1990s were more likely to celebrate a 10th anniversary than those that started in the 1980s, which, in turn, were also more likely to last than marriages that began back in the 1970s.
Why were so many analysts led astray by the recent data? Understanding this puzzle requires digging deeper into some rather complex statistics.
The Census Bureau reported that slightly more than half of all marriages occurring between 1975 and 1979 had not made it to their 25th anniversary. This breakup rate is not only alarmingly high, but also represents a rise of about 8 percent when compared with those marriages occurring in the preceding five-year period.
But here’s the rub: The census data come from a survey conducted in mid-2004, and at that time, it had not yet been 25 years since the wedding day of around 1 in 10 of those whose marriages they surveyed. And if your wedding was in late 1979, it was simply impossible to have celebrated a 25th anniversary when asked about your marriage in mid-2004.
If the census survey had been conducted six months later, it would have found that a majority of those married in the second half of 1979 were happily moving into their 26th year of marriage. Once these marriages are added to the mix, it turns out that a majority of couples who tied the knot from 1975 to 1979 — about 53 percent — reached their silver anniversary. Link.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Divorced From Reality
From the annals of negative reporting is just more fun than positive reporting:
Posted by Ron Ballew at 9/29/2007