Is The 50% Divorce Rate Statistic Really Accurate?

Is it true? Do 50% of marriages end in divorce? The statistics may surprise you…

Ask around about the divorce rate in the U.S. right now and you’ll probably be told that more than half of all marriages end in divorce. It’s something that so many people have been saying for so long now, that everyone accepts it as truth. It’s like the belief that Napoleon was short, despite the existing evidence that he was actually a pretty average height for a man living in 17th century France (seriously, it’s true!)

People tend to believe information they hear over and over. In essence, falsehoods affirmed over and over become truth in our minds. Which is why hardly anyone ever stops to verify certain common beliefs about marriage and divorce. Like the whole “50% of all marriages end in divorce” thing. Turns out it isn’t really true.

Wait, what? So 50% of marriages DON’T end in divorce?

Nope, they don’t. At least, not according to Robert Hughes, a former professor in the Department of Human & Family Services, College of Human Environmental Science, University of Missouri-Columbia.  “The demographics of divorce are routinely reported wrong, calculated wrong or misinterpreted,” he says.

According to Hughes, in an interview with, for every two marriages that took place in the 1990s there was one divorce. However this doesn’t mean the divorce rate is 50%, because the people getting married in a single year are not the same ones getting divorced.

And Hughes isn’t the only one who makes these claims…

Scott M. Stanley, a Psychology Professor at the University of Denver. “The assumption has been (by those who have not studied it carefully) that the 50% number came from someone noticing that, in the U.S., we have about 2.4 million marriages a year and 1.2 million divorces a year. Hence, 50 percent of married couples divorce.”

“No serious demographer ever looked at the approximately 2.4 million marriages a year and the 1.2 million divorces a year to arrive at the 50 % number.” Stanley explains. “That’s a misunderstanding that began early in the debate about what the divorce rate reality – a misunderstanding that is, unfortunately, widely perpetuated.”

Part of the problem lies in the data collection.

Unbelievably, the federal funding that supported the collection and publication of marriage and divorce data was actually suspended way back in 1996. This means that the annual count of all divorces and marriages is only done when a specific study is funded, and even then, the data is usually incomplete.

Interestingly, while the funding is no longer available, the U.S Census Bureau continues to calculate the annual divorce rate, although what they’re producing is called the “crude divorce rate.” This is the number of divorces per 1,000 people in the population, and it’s horribly inaccurate, because it includes children and single adults

If you want the facts, talk to the experts.

While we may not be able to give you accurate current divorce rates for the U.S. (we’re lawyers, not statisticians) we can help you with any aspect of your divorce process. Whether you need help with custody, asset division, visitation, or any other part of the divorce process, we can help you.

The family law attorneys at The Kronzek Firm have been working side-by-side with the people of Michigan for decades, ensuring the best possible outcomes for all of their family law needs. We are available 24/7 at 866 766 5245. Don’t wait. If you need help, contact us today and let us bear this burden for you.