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Variables Affecting Divorce Rates in 30 States

Student Name


PURPOSE STATEMENT AND MODEL.. …………………………………………………….3

EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS ………………………………………………………………………4

DATA DESCRIPTION………………………………………………………………………….7

DATA SOURCES……………………………………………………………………………….9

WORKS CITED …………………………………………………………………………….….10

Purpose Statement and Model

All around the United States and the whole world, the rate at which married couples have been divorcing has seen an alarming increase. This increase has been attributed to several factors. This creates the idea that there are those marriages that are more prone to end up in divorce than others are. Sociologists and marriage counselors use these variables to evaluate whether a given marriage will last for a long time or will end up in divorce. This paper will identify and analyze several variables in the effort of creating a parallel between the variables and the divorce rates. The study determines the effect of median income, median age, average household size and ethnicity on American divorce rates per 100,000 registrations. There exist other factors affecting divorce rates, for instance being endowed with efficient communication skills. These factors however, are hard to quantify and thus are outside the realm of this study (Blackburn, 2003).

Four independent variables have been specifically selected for this study depending on the availability of material, research and theoretical relevance of equation. The primary independent variable is the median income. This has been chosen as the main focus because of the results’ indication that it is the most important factor in the divorce rate. The paper will utilize a regression analysis in an attempt to explain the reason behind the rising rates of divorce. The four independent variables analyzed in this paper are the median income, median age, average household size and ethnicity.

The equation used in the attempt to analyze the different variables affecting divorce rates will be:

Divorce rate = F (median income_ median age_ average household size _ethnicity) + error term. The above equation is derived from the year 2000 cross sectional data set. The data set consisted of fifty observations from thirty states. The divorce rate is reached upon by taking the number of registered divorces per 100,000 registrations in a given state.

Empirical Analysis

The dependent variable, divorce-per-100k is the number of divorce cases filed per 100, 000 registered marriages within each state. This was arrived at by taking into account the total number of couples seeking formal divorce and correlating it with the total number of registered marriages from the given state. This data was obtained from the American Census Bureau. The bureau tracks marital events from different states in the US.

The primary independent variable is the median income of the married couple. Scientists from the University of Oklahoma undertook research on the causes of divorces and supported the idea that the median family income was a factor in the rates of divorce. Married couples who earned less than fifty thousand dollars per annum were more likely to have a divorce than those who earned more. Those who earn less have been shown to experience a considerably higher amount of stress than their counterparts who earned more (Johnson, & Jonathan, 1986). Their 1995 research indicated an affirmative relationship between the income level and the divorce rates. The reasoning behind this theory was that if the couple was well financed, the two do not have to face any of the issues associated with monetary shortages during and after divorce. This implies the couple concentrates on other issues, which is advantageous to the marriage. Greed in this case is taken to be the main issue for divorce (Lorenz, 2005). When the income sources are limited, a conflict is created between the limited funds and the limitless needs and requirements. In another instance, the establishment of a family unit creates two income earners whereby each of the partners becomes financially independent and thereby increasing the likelihood for divorce. Research shows that a good percentage of marital fights are brought about by money issues because of either having too much or lacking it altogether (Johnson, 2004).

The median age of the couple has been cited as one of the variables affecting divorce rates. Married couples between thirty-three to fifty-two years of age depicted rates of divorce of 34%. Those in the age bracket of fifty-three to seventy-two years had the highest divorce rates at 37% while those in their senior ages of above seventy-two years had a divorce rate of 18%. The age of a couple is a major issue regarding whether the marriage will last or will end up in divorce. The main reason behind this is that if the median age is on the higher side, the individuals are bound to have attained financial independence and the capacity to handle financial stress more reasonably (United States Bureau of Census, 2005). Another reason is that with advancement in age, one is bound to have accumulated a considerable amount of experience in life’s issues and the ability to face such. It also endows one with the relevant knowledge on the best person one is suited to marry. Research indicates that the best median age offering the most advantages is the age of twenty-five years. Research indicates that there has been a steady rise in the median age at the first marriage in the last two decades. The median age at the first marriage has increased by more than three years for both men and women in the past two decades from twenty-two years for men to twenty-four years, and from twenty to twenty-two years for women.

Another of the variables affecting the divorce rates is the average household size. This is the number of persons in a given household. Research indicates that divorce rates were higher in homes where there was high average household size. The average household size in the United States of America is 2.5 persons per household. Families that depicted a number greater than this were more likely to end up divorced than those with fewer numbers (Trent, Scott, 1989). On the other hand, couples who had children together were likely to have a lasting relationship than those without children. The children were seen as a possible creation of a tighter bond between the two couples.

The divorce rate also varied considerably among the different ethnic communities in the United States of America. The United States Census Bureau’s 5-Year American Community Survey indicated the percentage of each population divorcing over a fixed period of time (Somogyi, 1941). Their latest survey indicated 12.6% divorced couples among the American Indian and Alaskan natives, which was the highest number registered during the five-year period. The African American ethnic community was rated second with a percentage of 11.5%. The percentage of whites divorcing during the five-year period was 10.8%. The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders who divorced during the time was 8% (Shelton, 1987).

Data Description






(Divorces per 1,000,000)






Median age

50 years


30 years

18 years



(Median family income)






Household size

(% of households with 2 persons or higher)







(Combined % of whites and blacks by state)






Courtesy of: United States Bureau of the Census, 2009.

Data Sources

The data for percentage divorce rate per state was found using the Journal of Marriage and the Family.

0 Source: Nakonezny

The data on state to state family average income levels was found in the State and Metropolitan Area Data Book.

The data on the divorce rates from state to state was found in the United States Statistical Abstract.

The data on divorce rates among different ethnicities was found in the U.S. Statistical Abstract.

Works Cited

Blackburn, McKinley. “The Effects of the Welfare system on Marital Dissolution.” Journal of Population Economics 16 (2003): 477-500.

Johnson, John. “Do Long Work Hours Contribute to Divorce?” Topics in Economic Analysis & Policy 4.1 (2004): 1-23.

Johnson, William, and Jonathan Skinner. “Labor Supply and Marital Separation.” The American Economic Review 79.3 (1986): 455-469.

Lorenz, Scott. “Sex and Money Top Two Reasons for Marriage Problems, says author of ‘The Marriage Medics’.” Press Release Newswire. 21 February 2005. Retrieved from

Shelton, Beth Anne. “Variations in Divorce Rates by Community Size: A Test of the Social Integration Explanation.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 49.4 (1987): 827-832.

Somogyi, Stephen. “Differential Divorce Rates by Religious Groups.” The American Journal of Sociology 46.5 (1941): 665-685.

Trent, Katherine, and Scott South. “Structural Detriments of the Divorce Rate: A Cross-Sectional Analysis.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 51.2 (1989): 391-404.

United States Bureau of the Census. State and County Quick Facts. Feb. 2005.

United States Bureau of the Census. Statistical Abstract of the United States. 2002.

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