Divorce Statistics And What The Mean Means

Divorce StatisticsIf you like to peruse and research the topic of divorce like I do on any kind of regular basis (and if you do you’re a little nutty), you will note that people tend to throw out divorce statistics like candy on Halloween. Every Tom, Dick and Harry Government Agency has done some type of statistical research on divorce and they all say theirs is the most accurate. But, what does the mean mean?

While looking for the percentage of women who file for divorce, and yes, I know all you men will start to throw numbers at me, so let me duck first, I came across the most trusted and reliable source for statistics, CDC.gov, which houses vital statistics reports.

I read the most interesting thing there. The NCHS, National Center for Health Statistics, stopped collecting information about marriage and divorce in January of 1996 due to budget issues. Hmmmm. There was one final advanced report of divorce statistics for 1989 – 1990. I’ll get back to what I read there in just a sec, m’kay?

On this same page, there is a list of other sources for statistics on marriage and divorce. One such place would be the U.S. Census Bureau. Makes sense, or at least one would think it would. I found this written on the page when I clicked the link, “The Census Bureau is not the official source for administrative counts of marriages and divorces that take place in a given year. These data may be obtained from the National Center For Health Statistics (NCHS).” Isn’t that where I just was?

Where Do The Recent Divorce Statistics Come From?

Now this would be the ultimate question. From all the clicking around that I did, it seems as if it all led me back to the same two places, which would be the CDC, which stopped collecting the data in ’96 and the Census Bureau, who claims that they never collected the data to begin with.

Certainly you can find plenty of numbers being thrown around with percentages attached to them, but how accurate can they really be? Even I have been known to throw some of those out from time to time, but now I wonder if the mean even means anything.

What I did find out

The good news – my search was not a total loss. I discovered some good stats for all my number hound friends.

  • In 1990 there were a total of 1,182,000 divorces in the United States, the highest number recorded since 1985.
  • In 1990 the wife was awarded custody 72% of the time, joint custody was awarded 16% of the time and husbands were awarded custody 9% of the time (a travesty).
  • Most divorces occurred in the first 10 years of marriage.
  • In 1990 there were 16.8 per 1,000 children under the age of 18 involved in divorce.

What I didn’t find out

What percentage of the time women filed for divorce.  If any of you know this and can point me to the source, let me know!

Lee Brochstein About Lee Brochstein

Lee Brochstein is a certified professional divorce coach, blogger, a well-known author and a nationally known expert from her appearances on television and radio talk shows. She enjoys alliteration, Mad Men, Big Bang, mixed breeds, vanilla lattes, red wine and her kids when they aren’t killing each other. Follow her on twitter and Facebook.

  • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

    There’s a survey by the AARP – “The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond” – it found that 66% of women said they initiated the split….

    • http://www.postdivorcechronicles.com LeeBlock

      Thanks, Mandy.  I did look at this study after you sent me the name.  It’s not a very large segment and pretty much only covers a certain age group.  Obviously…being AARP!!  But, I appreciate the info!!

  • http://twitter.com/mikaleebyerman Mikalee Byerman

    This is fascinating. There must be a non-profit that addresses gender issues that collects this data? I think I’m curious enough to start digging … thanks for the inspiration, and I’ll let you know if I find anything!

    • http://www.postdivorcechronicles.com LeeBlock

      Please do let me know!  And, isn’t it fascinating.  Makes you wonder about all these statistics that get thrown around, doesn’t it!

  • Ibsenscastle

    There is one thing in this very interesting post that was completely out of place…
    “(a travesty)”
    While I don’t agree with many of your stances, I do respect your positions.  I believe they are well supported and thought out.
    I did not expect you to participate in the popularization of the idea that men are wrongly deprived of custody.

    Custody has usually been awarded to women for a variety of reasons, mostly because the couples in question AGREE to it.
    A Court Commissioned study on bias found that in cases where the couples agree on custody, the mother receives physical custody.  In those cases where custody is contested, 70% of the time the father receives custody.  The travesty is that according to several domestic violence studies, up to 90% of those men who seek custody are domestic abusers and use the courts and custody threats to extend their control.  That is, if couples agree on custody, the children are considered and yes, the women will probably get custody.  If there is a case of control and abuse that has not been directed toward the children (only the mother), the abusive men will get custody.  That is the travesty and tragedy.  And in some states, the percentage is higher.

    Also of note that Australia has had mandated joint physical custody and recent studies have shown that although it is joint custody on paper (and financially), for very practical reasons, it has evolved into de facto sole custody situations, usually with the mother in the majority of cases.

    • http://www.postdivorcechronicles.com LeeBlock

      I would love the URL or the link to the study if you have it!  Also, did you know there was a study done in Australia that said that the kids were better off when the Father moved out of the state?? Sometimes it is agreed on that the mother should have custody, but not always, and yes, when there is a terrible travesty going on about the courts giving custody to the abusive parent, which I believe I have written about on the site.  The court system is broken, but the statistics are also unreliable.  They come from too many sources and they are generally out of date.  Perhaps a statistician…is that what they are called??….should take all the percentages and then find the mean of those to find the REAL means??

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