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Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Marriage and Divorce Data from the Census Bureau, of all Places

The US Census Bureau has just published its first detailed report on marriage and divorce in the United States. Why? Well, the Census Bureau explains it thus:

Historically, data on marriages and divorces in the United States were collected from marriage and divorce certificates filed and collected at the state-level through the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) vital statistics system. In 1996, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the NCHS discontinued the collection of detailed state-level vital records data from marriage and divorce certificates. Beginning in 2008, questions about marital events were added to the ACS to collect national and state-level marriage and divorce data. These new marital events items fill a void in the marriage and divorce data collected in the United States.
The Associated Press picked up on the main findings:
Singles, take note: With marriages at an all-time low, states in the South and West rank among the highest for couples hearing wedding bells. But many of these states also have higher rates of divorce.
The first-of-its-kind analysis by the Census Bureau, released Thursday, also finds that people are waiting longer before marrying for the first time. In particular, the percentage of women who wed as teenagers has dropped precipitously since 1970, while many men are postponing marriage past their college-age years.
"Surprisingly, the South and West, which we think of as more socially conservative, have higher rates of divorce than does the supposedly liberal East," said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University. "The reason is that young adults in the South and West tend to have less education and marry earlier, both of which lead to a higher risk of divorce."
"The South and West also have many migrants from other parts of the region who have left their social support networks behind. When they have marital problems, they have fewer people to turn to for help," he added.
As to the age at first marriage, the Census Bureau found that men and women were now joining in wedlock later and across a greater range of ages.
Pamela Smock, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan, said the rising median age of first marriage is a reflection in part of the proliferation of new types of family groups, including couples who choose to live together and/or have children outside of marriage.
"People are no longer following some lockstep script about when it is time to get married," she said.

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