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The Big Answer

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divorce rate in US 1960-2010

In 1988, the divorce rate did not change (4.8 per 1,000 population since 1986), while the marriage rate decreased (from about 10 per 1,000 in 1985 to 9.7 per 1,000 in 1988) to the lowest level since 1967. In 2000 the divorce rate was 8.2 per thousand and in 2011 it was only 6.8 per 1000.

41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce
41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce

Incidentally, 41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, 60% of second marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, and 73% of third marriages in the U.S. end in divorce in 2010.

The demographers believe that marriage is becoming more of a matter of preference rather than a significant life event. Cohabitation is increasingly substituting for marriage in the U.S. and in most Western nations. For example, between 1970 and 1985 the proportion of the population under age 25 who had married dropped from 72 percent to 55 percent. But the proportion of those who lived in a "co-residential union" declined only from 75 percent to 69 percent. Thus, cohabitation has offset most of the decline in marriage among young adults and in the 21st century, and the trend has only increased more recently. The cohabitation rate in 2000 was 5.2% and in 2010 it was 6.6%, a 41.4% increase.

In 2000 the divorce rate was 8.2 per thousand and in 2011 it was only 6.8 per 1000—cohabitation is replacing marriage in the U.S. and in most Western nations
In 2000 the divorce rate was 8.2 per thousand and in 2011 it was only 6.8 per 1000—cohabitation is replacing marriage in the U.S. and in most Western nations

Cohabitation is most frequent among high school dropouts. Data also shows that people who cohabit before marriage are more likely to divorce. However, while the proportion of divorced people who remarry within five years of divorce decreased 10 percent between the late 1970s and early 1980s the proportion who were in a "co-residential union" increased by 10 percent. The percent of all current marriages and couples married within the last year where at least one spouse is remarried in 1996 was 43.4, and in 2004 it was 35.9.

Four in ten cohabiting couples had a child living with them in 1985: 12 percent had their own child, 27 percent had a child from one partner's previous union. Half of the cohabiting couples with children had a child under age five in 1985. Unmarried couples with first-born babies accounted for 12% of birth circumstances in 2002, but 22% in 2012. Experts say a cultural acceptance of having children out-of-wedlock, along with the recent economic downturn, contribute to the dramatic jump in children born to unmarried couples who live together.

Thirteen hundred stepfamilies are formed in the U.S. each day, and these will be the most common form of family by the end of the decade. However, 60 percent of stepmarriages end in divorce, mainly because of the children. (Source: "48 Hours," May 22, 1991)

In 1989, among people under age 35, only one third said marriage was better than being single, and only 29 percent agreed that having children was better than remaining childless (National Survey of Families and Households). "Births Hit 24 year High," The Numbers News, May 1989, pp. 2-3.)

It is generally considered by researchers that couples today have a deficit of skills with which to make partnerships last. Explanations abound—but reading much of the content on the website The Big Answer will confirm the extreme nature of the results of lack of parenting or relationship skills. The result of this lack of skills is that today there are more stepfamilies than original families. (Source: US Bureau of Census.)

divorce rate in US 1935-2010