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Who gets divorced in America, in 7 charts


There’s this persistent myth in America that about half of all marriages end in divorce.

In fact, the figures are significantly lower, as new graphics by Nathan Yau of Flowing Data demonstrate.

As Claire Cain Miller wrote at the Upshot, the divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining since then. In fact, if current marriage and divorce rate continues, only about one-third of American marriages will end in divorce, the Upshot’s Justin Wolfers has calculated.

But the rates are much higher for some groups than others, as Yau’s graphs show.

Here’s what the graph looks like for American men and women who have a high school education or less.

The graph shows the age of men and women along the horizontal axis and the percentage who have been divorced or married more than once on the vertical axis. These graphs are cumulative, so as you go from left to right they add in the people who have ever divorced or remarried at any age group, to reach the total percentage on the right hand side of the graph. As you can see, about 39 percent of men with a high school education or less divorce or remarry in their lifetimes, compared to 37 percent of women with a similar education.

And here’s what the graphic looks like for those with a bachelor’s degree. Perhaps predictably, the divorce and remarriage rates are lower, with roughly 29 percent of women and 28 percent of men with a bachelor's degree getting divorced or remarried.

Yau also broke the divorce rates down by race. Here are the rates for whites:

The rates are slightly higher for blacks:

They are much lower Hispanics:

And lowest of all for Asians, with less than one-fifth of Asian-Americans getting divorced and remarried:

The highest rates of the bunch belong to Native Americans:

You can see more graphics, including a breakdown of divorce rates for employed and unemployed Americans, on Yau’s site, here.

Note: A previous version of this post incorrectly said that the statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce comes from erroneously dividing the divorce rate in a given year by the marriage rate in that same year. In fact, the 50% statistic has been included in historical life tables published by the Census bureau. The post has been corrected. 

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