Wednesday, February 8, 2006

The Bullshit Factor Strikes Marriage/Divorce Statistics

When my kids were growing up and living with their divorced mother, me, I was always aware of a statistic which is still being thrown out by the media as the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It's a fact which, in thirty years, hasn't changed -- that half of all marriages end in divorce. 

That's because each year about two million people get married, while one million get divorced.

So every year when I got my daughters' class lists I expected to see that half the families were divorced. But they never were. [If I were a real social scientist I would go back and check to see if all those families are still together, but I'm grinding another ax with this entry.]

Out of twenty five kids in each class, there were maybe two kids with divorced parents. Often I was the only one. From year to year it never changed. So I wondered if somebody had made a mistake about the divorce numbers.

Then a TV pundit pointed out that while approximately two million people get married every year and approximately one million get divorced, there's a huge number that hasn't been accounted for:

The giant pool of already married people that the newlyweds join.

So when two million people get married each year, they join a crowd of 20,000,000 who are already married.

[Twenty million is just a guess, because I haven't been able to find the actual number of married people in the country. But you get the idea.]

So if, at the end of the year, there are a total of 22,000,000 married people, but only 1,000,000 people are getting divorced, clearly half of all marriages aren't ending in divorce. At the same time, it's probably not just one divorce for every twenty-two marriages. Even though one divorce in twenty-two was closer to what my children's class list looked like.

The problem is that the media interpret the yearly statistics to make it sound like half of all marriages end in divorce EVERY YEAR.

But even that doesn't tell the whole story, because there are new statistics that show that marriages among the college educated are less likely to end in divorce at all, compared to marriages among the not so college educated. And that's just the tip of the statistical iceberg. I stopped reading when my eyes began to glaze over.

You can check out this one site I found and try to make sense out of everything yourself:

Mostly, I think there's hope for people getting married. I think my children's generation may be getting married later because of what they perceive as the high number of break ups.

But that may be a statistic which turns out NOT to be true.


dcmeyer420 said...

Lies, lies, lies and statistics! I think statistician manipulate their data to give whoever gave them the grant to do the study. Most of my kids friends and classmates are from intact families. Dysfunctional maybe, but nonetheless intact in statistical sense.

suzypwr said...

Let's not forget the charming people who marry and divorce - 10 times. That lets a lot of married people say whew, our marriage now has a better chance!


sdoscher458 said...

I don't believe those stats either.  It's kinda like politics they try to bend it to their beliefs.....Sandi

elleme2 said...

I'm sure divorce is more common than it once was, largely because it's easier to get a divorce and easier for women to become financially independent, but I've always been skeptical about those statements that place the divorce rate at 50% or thereabouts.  Thanks for pointing to a logical and what should have been obvious, explanation.  Awesome how easy it is to misinterpret statistics.

sunnyside46 said...

well that was interesting, just because statistics say something,people are likely to beleive it, but you can make the stats say anything you want them to.