This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Breaking Up Is Harder to Do Now in the U.S.

The National Center for Marriage & Family Research at Bowling Green State University is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Of particular note is that its Co-Director, Dr. Wendy Manning, is President-Elect of the Population Association of America. To celebrate the anniversary, the center has published an infographic by Hiujing Wu that tells the tale of changing divorce patterns by age and sex in the United States between 1990 and 2015. The punch line is the graph below:

Overall, the divorce rate has gone down a bit over time, and the pattern is essentially the same for both males and females. But you can see that the pattern of change depends very much on age. Divorce rates declined most rapidly for people under 35, whereas it actually went up for people aged 45 and older. This is probably associated with the pretty significant changes in the pattern of marriage and childbearing over this 25-year period.

One point to keep in mind is that back in 1990 the National Center for Health Statistics was keeping track of divorces by gathering those data from each state. However, they stopped doing that in 1996. We went for awhile without much information, but when the American Community Survey was launched in 2005 as the replacement for the long form on the decennial census, people started using the marriage and divorce questions asked in that survey. As Sheela Kennedy and Steve Ruggles famously titled a paper--"Breaking Up is Hard to Count"! Their analysis for data between 1980 and 2010 showed a rise in divorce during that period, so these new data suggest a veering away from that trend.


  1. So, sex dolls and demography. FYI.

    1. Yes, that is really sad...An unintended consequence of the one-child policy combined with sexism.