snopes.com Post new topic  Post a reply
search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hello snopes.com » Urban Legends » Science » Cultural Myth: half of all marriages end in divorce

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: Cultural Myth: half of all marriages end in divorce
Barbara R.
Deck the Malls


Icon 05 posted      Profile for Barbara R.   E-mail Barbara R.   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
For nearly twenty-five years the following cultural myth has been going around.

One version: statistics show that half of all marriages end in divorce.

Second version: of all the couples who marry each year, half of them will end up divorce court.

The statistics supposedly go back 30 years or more, and are purportedly based on the U.S. Census. Yet most of the books and magazine articles don't explain how they arrive at these conclusions. One version states that 38 percent of couples who are on their first marriage will (inevitably?) end up divorced, and 62 percent of couple who marry a second time after being divorced will (inevitably?) end up divorced again! Humm??

Where and when was this study or census taken? All I know is that it was done over 30 to 35 years ago and is still presented as fact.

Barbara R.

Posts: 378 | From: Boonville, Missouri USA | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Lainie
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Lainie   E-mail Lainie   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I don't have a cite for this, but my understanding is that the 50% statistic was derived by comparing the number of marriages in a given year to the number of divorces in that same year. The problem with that methodology should be obvious: Of all the people who divorced in, say, 1970, only a small fraction were married in 1970. The divorces that occur in any given year involve marriages that have occurred anytime in the past 40-50 years.

--------------------
How homophobic do you have to be to have penguin gaydar? - Lewis Black

Posts: 8322 | From: Columbus, OH | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
El Camino
We Three Blings


Icon 1 posted      Profile for El Camino   E-mail El Camino   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Yeah, that's my understanding as well...that the "real" statistic is that "the divorce rate is 50% of what the marriage rate is" but that ends up morphing into "50% of marriages result in divorce."
Posts: 1048 | From: Brunswick, Maine | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Hero_Mike
Happy Holly Days


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Hero_Mike         Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
They way I've heard it is more like this : one-third of people are divorced at least once.

Fifty percent of *all* marriages fail, but only one-third of *first* marriages fail. In other words, if you are divorced and remarried, the 2nd marriage is much more likely to fail than a first marriage, and so on, probably up to the third marriage.

Beyond that the statistics are probably not significant, since so few people get married more than 3 times. Not simultaneously, of course.

--------------------
"The fate of *billions* depends on you! Hahahahaha....sorry." Lord Raiden - Mortal Kombat

Posts: 1587 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Lady Moon
Jingle Bell Hock


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Lady Moon   E-mail Lady Moon   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Hero_Mike:
Beyond that the statistics are probably not significant, since so few people get married more than 3 times. Not simultaneously, of course.

Darn it, there went my question/snark! [lol]

I got it.... [fish]

--------------------
"We've got a fifth member of the band round here, and he's DEFINITELY out of tune!" -- Keith Moon

"If I had a thousand quid for every time I've introduced this song --- oh, I do!" -- John Entwistle

Posts: 584 | From: Ohio | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Barbara R.
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Barbara R.   E-mail Barbara R.   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
What really irks me about this myth is that those who perpetuate it don't think much about it. They compare the number of divorces in any given year to the number of couples who "tie the knot" that same year, but they never give a thought to those couples who have been married for anywhere from one to 60 years! That's why it's so illogical!

I wonder why anyone would use the statistics in such an unscientific manner.

Barbara R.

Posts: 378 | From: Boonville, Missouri USA | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
WingedBear
A View to a Krill


Icon 1 posted      Profile for WingedBear   E-mail WingedBear   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I always heard the statistic as 50% of all marriages will end in divorce within five years.

--------------------
If the sum of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the square on the other two sides, why is a mouse when it spins?

Posts: 90 | From: Cleveland, OH | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
geminilee
The First USA Noel


Icon 1 posted      Profile for geminilee   E-mail geminilee   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Well, it would not work for just a few years, but if you have been comparing the marriage and divorce rates for a while you will get a decent idea of the trends. It really does not matter how long a marriage has been ongoing. All that matters is that, on average, the number divorced in a given year is half of the number of marriages.

This is assuming that the data has been gathered and is in fact what is claimed. It would be interesting to see how it was actually compiled, if it is accurate.

--------------------
"Accompanied by the ghosts of dolphins, the ghost of a ship sailed on..." Terry Pratchett

Posts: 660 | From: Gainesville, FL | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
ParaDiddle
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


Icon 1 posted      Profile for ParaDiddle   E-mail ParaDiddle       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I pulled this post from another thread because it's better suited here

. . . can I jump in on the discussion regarding the "50% of marriages end in divorce" statistic?

The way my $.02 interprets it is as a reasonably accurate stat with a crapload of misleading applications. Like with many averages, once you look at the extremes, there are usually some interesting (and/or misleading) interpretations.

There's a tired riddle that goes "you know what the other half of marriages end in? Death".

The 50% number is absolutely true for the person who has experienced two marriages and one divorce in their lifetime. The person who has married once and divorced once skews the stat with a 100% rating. It even gets sillier for the person who has married several times, divorced each partner then dies single. I'll call that the Elizabeth Taylor model. At least I will if she dies single and I'm still around.

The stat is further misleading because of the way our society has changed. First of all the marriages and divorces of all living persons shouldn't be included in the statistic. So for accuracy, of all those who are dead as of January 2006 A = the number of marriages recorded since records have been kept and B = the number of divorces recorded. These are the only known values that should be used for the percentage calculation.

I know a couple who were married in 1960. There is no accurate way to apply their marriage to the stat until one or both of them dies. Since there is no limit on how many times one person can get married, and the only opportunity to record the data is at the end of a lifetime, a simple out-of-context quote of that statistic can be misleading.

-P

Posts: 1856 | From: Milwaukee, WI | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Major D. Saster
The First USA Noel


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Major D. Saster         Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
...As always say, half of the marriages end in divorce, and the other half with at least one of the partner's demise.

Be merry, my friends, be merry...

--------------------
Desperate, but not serious.

Posts: 689 | From: Confoederatio Helvetica | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Mr. Baggins
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Mr. Baggins   E-mail Mr. Baggins   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
In my case, the statistic is eerily accurate. Two marriages, one divorce.

--------------------
"The system would also let you send your picture and contact details to a rough trade gay contact mailing list saying you like to be surprised with power tools in a non-consensual role play scenario – but that doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it.!"

Posts: 298 | From: Monterrey, Mexico | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Lainie
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Lainie   E-mail Lainie   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Baggins:
In my case, the statistic is eerily accurate. Of my 2 marriages, one divorce.

And of my 1 marriage, 1 divorce. My step-grandmother was married 3 times -- no divorces.

None of those facts proves anything about an overall marriage rate.

--------------------
How homophobic do you have to be to have penguin gaydar? - Lewis Black

Posts: 8322 | From: Columbus, OH | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Mr. Baggins
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Mr. Baggins   E-mail Mr. Baggins   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Lainie:
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Baggins:
In my case, the statistic is eerily accurate. Of my 2 marriages, one divorce.

And of my 1 marriage, 1 divorce. My step-grandmother was married 3 times -- no divorces.

None of those facts proves anything about an overall marriage rate.

I forgot the fish [dunce]

--------------------
"The system would also let you send your picture and contact details to a rough trade gay contact mailing list saying you like to be surprised with power tools in a non-consensual role play scenario – but that doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it.!"

Posts: 298 | From: Monterrey, Mexico | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Doug4.7
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Doug4.7   E-mail Doug4.7   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Still together with the same woman now for almost 20 years. It was our first.

--------------------
And now for something completely different...

Posts: 4164 | From: Alabama | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Nion
We Three Blings


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Nion         Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Baggins:
In my case, the statistic is eerily accurate. Two marriages, one divorce.

Same here. I think I got it right this time, though. [Smile]

--------------------
It can't rain all the time.

Posts: 1102 | From: Iowa | Registered: Oct 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
quitter
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


Icon 07 posted      Profile for quitter         Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I had a discussion about this here , in regards to where divorce is most common in the country. While researching I found several articles 1,2,3, or see the Wiki on divorce here

All of these articles come to the same conclusion. The 50% figure is a myth that comes from a misuse of statistics. What is happening is that people look at marriage rates and divorce rates from any given year and find that the divorce rate is fully 50% of the marriage rate. Then they think, holy crap! 50% of marriages end in divorce! But it's just not the case. This myth emerged largely in the 70s and 80s when the boomers marriages were beginning to fail, and while they had a slightly larger rate of failure the 50% effect came more from their overall population boom than from their inability to keep stable relationships. Because most marriages fail in the first 10 years, the majority of the boomer divorces started occurring in the 70s and 80s, exaggerating the effect.

When marriages have been followed or surveyed or otherwise examined by sampling on an individual basis they find that the rate of dissolution is probably closer to 30% today, and at its highest in the 80s probably was around 40%.

Hope that helps.

Posts: 1 | From: Charlottesville, VA | Registered: Jun 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Sylvanz
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Sylvanz   E-mail Sylvanz   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Here's an interesting monkey wrench. My SO was married twice before we were married; he has been my only spouse...so far anyway. We've been married for 23 years now. I told him: "This one better stick fella' or I'll have to kill you." He replied brightly, "Well, at least I have choices." [Big Grin]

P&LL, Syl

--------------------
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. — Voltaire

Posts: 1944 | From: Michigan | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Mr. Baggins
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Mr. Baggins   E-mail Mr. Baggins   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Sylvanz:
Here's an interesting monkey wrench. My SO was married twice before we were married; he has been my only spouse...so far anyway. We've been married for 23 years now. I told him: "This one better stick fella' or I'll have to kill you." He replied brightly, "Well, at least I have choices." [Big Grin]

P&LL, Syl

He... my wife always tells me she'd rather be a widow than a divorcee.... [Eek!]

--------------------
"The system would also let you send your picture and contact details to a rough trade gay contact mailing list saying you like to be surprised with power tools in a non-consensual role play scenario – but that doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it.!"

Posts: 298 | From: Monterrey, Mexico | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Rivkah Chaya
I Saw Three Shipments


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Rivkah Chaya     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I can't find a cite, but I remember once reading that this was a corruption of the statistic that 50% of divorces happen in the first five years of marriage....
Posts: 75 | From: Bloomington, IN | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.

Instant Graemlins
   


Post new topic  Post a reply Close topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Urban Legends Reference Pages

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2