The "divorce rate" is a statistical pet peeve for me. The reason is that the statistic makes no sense. What is the divorce rate? Is it
- The divorce rate of currently married couples?
- The divorce rate of married couples in the past year?
- The divorce rate of 1000 people over the first 5 years of marriage?
It's terrible. The major issue is that there is no time limit or length of time over which these statistics are measured. A "successful marriage" is normally considered one in which one spouse eventually passes away (i.e. "Til death do us part"). So if a couple gets married, then one partner dies the next day, it's considered a successful marriage because it did not lead to divorce (technically, I suppose it's a successful marriage even if someone is murdered by their spouse). However, a couple married for 50 years before deciding to get divorced is a failed marriage.
One of the most cited statistics in divorce is "50% of marriages end in divorce", which is a completely miscalculated statistic. Apparently, the statistic was generated by the fact 1.2 million divorces occurred in 1981, while 2.4 million marriages occurred in 1981. [reference]
I'm not a statistics person by trade, so I don't know what the best statistic would be. I think a statistic measuring average marriage length would be a pretty good one. Or perhaps just statistics that inform you of time frames. For example, "X% of marriages end in divorce within 1 year" or "Y% of marriages last greater than 10 years" would be far better statistics.
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