Divorce in America: An Infographic

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  • Andrew Sullivan had a chart on divorce by education. Those with a bachelors and above are at a near 50 year low divorce rate. While those at the low education end of the scale are both less likely to marry and have increasingly high rates of divorce. My guess is that this is both a part of education (because of delays in marriage) and a proxy for income.


  • Phil Miller

    Yes, this is something that Charles Murray talks about in detail in his book Coming Apart. The irony he points out is that often we hear politicians and pundits talk of the strong values of the middle class or “middle America”, but in reality, those who are often identified as the “liberal elites” are less likely to be divorced, less likely to have children out of marriage, have abortions, etc.

  • Andrew Dowling

    This is the great paradox of the Christian Right. The adherents of having strict moral standards be legislated are statistically more likely to be engaged in behavior commonly associated with immorality. And . . .surprise, surprise . . their brand of Christianity is usually a variation of the “believe/confess and get your heaven card punched” BS.

  • Susanne Hukari

    Yes- and wouldn’t that be a reason for us Christians not to talk to much about who should get married and who shouldn’t? Shouldn’t we always support people who want to commit to one another? I ‘love’ it when 1+ times divorced christian brothers and sisters tell 50 year male couple (or female couples) who were together for the last 30 years that they can’t get married- Isn’t there some hypocrisy? Doesn’t God hate divorce too?? And by the way I have been married for 32 years and have no BA. Just spent my life taking care of my husband, kids, grandkids, foster kids, and the church.

  • josenmiami

    Yikes! My first marriage was a smashing success for 38 years (she died of cancer). What are my chances of having a successful 2nd marriage? Maybe i will just stay single. It is not so bad.

  • DRT

    Extruding machine operators. ! lol

  • The Janitor

    In fact I’ve heard of more than one study which has shown that the divorce rate of those who attend church regularly is much lower than the average divorce rate.

    The idea that the divorce rate is the same for religious people apparently doesn’t hold up for people who are committed and actively religious.

    So when you talk about the “paradox of the Christian Right” what exactly do you have in mind? Are you categorizing anyone who claims to be religious on a survey as part of the “Christian Right”? That would be naive. Or do you have specific studies in mind which document that the persons actually belong to the “Christian Right” and yet are more likely to be engaged in immorality?

  • The Janitor


    It would be interesting to see why that is. Liberals typically have no moral objections to abortion. So why would they have less abortions?

    I notice you say they are less likely to have abortions. Less likely *than who*? Less likely than conservatives who oppose abortion or less likely than liberal non-elites or less likely than conservatives who support abortion? That seems like an important question to answer.

    And do we have similar information for “conservative elites”? Are the elite among conservatives more likely than the elite among liberals to be divorced, have children out of marriage, etc?

    If it happens that liberal elites have less abortions, for example, than non-liberal elites for reasons that are completely unrelated to liberalism per se (e.g., because of economic factors) then it’s really not significant that liberal elites have less abortions than non-liberal elites.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “Are you categorizing anyone who claims to be religious on a survey as part of the “Christian Right”?”

    I’m characterizing the supporters of the Religious Right as the religious right. Whether or not they fit someone’s definition of being “committed and actively religious” is beside the point.

    Also, to say “liberals typically have no moral objections to abortion” is completely inaccurate. There are many activities people of all political stripes find morally objectionable but don’t think is good public policy to be made illegal.

  • The Janitor


    It’s silly to try and pretend that whether someone is actually religious is beside the point when discussing statistics of the *Religious* Right. Tons of people claim to be Catholic simply because they were aptised as Catholic when they were infants or because their parents were Catholic. But if that person doesn’t hold to Catholic doctrine and practice it, there is no meaningful sense in which the person is Catholic or should be grouped together with when consider statistics on Catholics. Same goes for people who claim to be religious.

    At any rate, you’ve said that you’re original statement was simply considering those who support the religious religious the “Christian RIght”. So can you point me to the studies which support your claim? Where are the studies which show that “supporters” of the Christian Right are more likely to be immoral?

    Next, you claim that my statement about liberals not having a moral objection to abortion is wrong. So can you please provide me with some information that shows liberals typically do have objections to abortion (and what are those objections?)

    The claim you’re making seems absurd on the face of it. As Greg Koukle says, abortion either needs no justification or no justification is adequate. Idon’t doubt that some liberals and some conservatives may give lip service to abortion as an “necessary evil” but there is usually no logic behind that rhetoric and it certainly isn’t the typical position.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “Tons of people claim to be Catholic simply because they were aptised as
    Catholic when they were infants or because their parents were Catholic.
    But if that person doesn’t hold to Catholic doctrine and practice it,
    there is no meaningful sense in which the person is Catholic or should
    be grouped together with when consider statistics on Catholics.”

    But every major survey does anyway. Anyone can attempt to “dig down” into criteria of who “really” fits into a group but it becomes a fool’s errand.

    One can look at districts and percentages that vote for conservative Christian right candidates in those districts, and then see the corresponding % of divorce, pornographic usage, alcohol abuse etc. In many cases the percentages are so large that a wide overlap is clearly present. It certainly doesn’t imply causation, but it implies hypocrisy.

  • The Janitor

    And so it becomes obvious how flimsy your original claim is.

    You claim it’s a fools errand to try and seperate who actually fits into some group. Yet not only is it pretty simple, but it’s been done before. For instance, by asking the persons how often they attend church. Of course that’s not perfect but it goes a much longer way towards weeding out the nominals than your more presumptuous method. And when it has been done in the past (e.g., for divorce stats) it has shown a significant difference.

    So one might think you like the ambiguous method simply because it allows you to paint the “Christian Right” as ugly hypocrites. But where we have more careful surveys that picture begins to fall apart.

    Secondly who are these “conservative Christian Right candidates” you’re singling out? Are you just assuming that anyone registered as a Republican running for office is a conservative Christian? Again, that would be naive. And it’s equaly naive to assume that someone voting for a conservative Christian Right candidate is themselves a part of the conservative Christian Right! Take someone like Bruce Willis, for instance, who is a fiscal conservative but definitely not part of the Christian Right. No doubt Willis would support a candidate who falls into the more conservative Christian Right spectrum than the Obama spectrum. But to count his lifestyle as being representative of the Christian Right because of who he voted for is an absolute joke… but that joke seems to be the basis of your caricature.

    Finally, even if we had direct evidence of higher immorality among conservative Christians over against liberal Christians or plain old secularists that would not indicate hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is not there mere failure of someone or some group to live up to its moral standard (on that account, you would either be numbered among the hypocrites or have the moral standard and lifestyle of a sociopath). Rather, hypocrisy is the claim to a moral standard with no intention of fulfilling that standard. And whether or not conservative Christians are successful in living up to their claimed moral standard does not indicate their intentions to do so.

  • Phil Miller

    It has to do with socioeconomic factors more than anything. My point isn’t that liberals have less abortions because they’re liberal, but rather those that we think of as stereotypical liberals live their lives more in line with what we think of as conservative values. Murray’s point throughout the book is that socioeconomic class is the thing that has the most influence on these issues – more than politics, race, or virtually other factor.

  • The Janitor


    That’s about what I figured and I had heard something along those lines before. However I also wonder if the study on abortion takes account of contraceptives that are sometimes argued to be abortifacient. For instance, what percentage of the liberal elite has taken RU486? Maybe liberal elites can afford abortifacients and are more prudent to take them than the lower class.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Hypocrisy is about intentions? LOL. Hypocrisy by anyone’s standard definition is about actions . . ie, some pastor rails on about the sin of homosexuality, but then gets caught meeting male prostitutes in a motel. “Intentions” have nothing to do with it, although of course “the devil” is the typical scapegoat.

  • The Janitor

    Yeah, hypocrisy is about intentions: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/03/hypocrisy.html

    If you want to claim hypocrisy is just about actions, then you’re a hypocrite too unless you claim to have perfectly fulfilled the moral code you espouse. Now maybe you’ll be fine with that and say “Sure, we’re all hypocrites” But I don’t think that’s what you had in mind when you pinned it on the Christian Right… you’d just be biting the bullet at that point.

  • Psychologist and author, Valerie Tarico, a former Evangelical who knows the conservative Christian world very well, has a great article (plus ensuing discussion) on some of the same divorce stats given above. She also develops some of the issues and questions raised in this post’s discussion, per the statistics and with insightful commentary. Found here: http://awaypoint.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/christian-marriage-atheist-marriage-divorce/#comments

  • attytjj466

    The troubling thing to me about the divorce issue is the singular focus on the legal marital status. Stay legally Married, good, get legally divorced, bad. Ok. But what about married but also cheating? What about married but also emotionally abusive, distant, or for all practical purposes, living separate lives. What about married and constantly fighting, lying, hurting? How about married and doesn’t love and has antipathy towards spouse but one is a pastor, or professor at a Christian college, or politician, or married to the superior economic/income spouse? Making legal marital status the only measure of who is getting it right /doing it right and who is not is really not much different than measuring whether someone is a Christian or not by whether they are a legally, on the official membership rolls, member of a church or not.