Family Issues

Misreading Marriage Statistics


Phil Cohen, a sociologist at UNC, offers a useful lesson in some of the ways press coverage of family issues can go wrong. In this case, we see the dangers of reading too many conclusions into your survey data and the misconceptions that are possible when you "assume divorce rates are always going up." (As Cohen explained in greater detail in an earlier post — and as we've discussed here on Hit & Run in the past — divorce has actually been declining for decades.)


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  1. I prefer Loretta Lynn.

    1. Tammy had her charms. That worble in her voice is a bit of an aquired taste.

  2. Panicky stories like this make me want to marry my partner solely so we can file for divorce and I can taunt the professional worrywarts with it: “Another American marriage is DEAD! Another maggot chomping on the corpse of the traditional family! Ha ha ha!”

  3. According to my divorce lawyer friends, the reason why divorces drop off during recession is because the value of the marital assets decline, meaning that there is less money to split between the spouses and less money to pay the lawyers.

    Hence, it is a business decision, not a commitment to marriage.

    1. I see marriage itself as a business decision. Two people with similar goals sign a contract to pool resources to achieve those goals.

  4. It should hardly be surprising that divorce rates are falling – given that people (for the most part) only marry because they want to now. The societal BS that used to accompany “non-traditional” lifestyles of whatever style are nearly gone.

  5. As my sociology professor pointed out a few years ago, most of the divorce panic involves a lot of misleading interpretation of the statistics. For one thing, having ten couples get married and five other couples get divorced in the same year is not the same thing as “50% of all marriages this year ended in divorce.” For another, of the marriages ending in divorce, a lot of them are second/third/fourth/nth marriages, which is to say marriages between losers who’ve already got a few divorces under their belts, yet allowed the voice of hope to triumph over the voice of experience once more.

    More meaningful statistics would be the ratio of married people to divorced ones, what percentage of the marriages in question are first marriages, and what percentage of second marriages are due to divorce versus death.

  6. The products in the Ralph Lauren shop combine the causal styles with sports and fashionable designs. Ralph Lauren Outlet never stopped bringing surprise to its customers and trying to meet the fashion demands of its customers.

  7. The United States currently takes a narrow view on the definition of a spouse for immigration purposes. The result of this is that spouses and partners in many not-uncommon types of marriages and relationships are entitled only to limited – if any – immigration benefits. In this article.

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