How common is late life divorce?

My last post painted a pretty bleak picture.  As Greyghost put it:

Well Dalrock for a guy that is blogging for marriage you sure have a knack for finding reasons for MGTOW. This article says I’m in big trouble because I am one responsible dude.

I think it helps to remember that while women like the ones in the original story are shown as representing the norm, thankfully they really don’t. The chart below is the one I shared when investigating if women are done with men after age 55.  This covers white women in the US;  you can get the same data for all races from the US Census.  Data on divorce rates by age bracket per 1,000 married women would be preferable, but this at least gives us something to go on:

Following a noteworthy bump in divorce between early and late 40s, the percentage of women married vs divorced remains surprisingly steady until around age 60, where the death of their husbands (and not divorce) starts steadily lowering the percentage of women who are married.  Keep in mind that only 30 out of every 1,000 divorcées aged 45 to 64 remarry in any given year (source, P 148), so the pool of existing divorcées isn’t being siphoned off due to remarriage at a very fast rate.  The stabilization of the percentage of divorcées after age 45 therefore suggests a very low divorce rate later in life.  This is corroborated by the sampling the AARP found when they did their study on late life divorce.  From my previous analysis of the AARP study:

73% of the divorces examined in the study occurred when the respondent was in their 40s.  Another 15% of the divorces they studied occurred when the respondent was 50-55.  Only 11% occurred when the person answering the survey was over 55.

Part of the skew was likely caused by the nature of the sampling they were doing, but putting all of the data together would seem to suggest that divorce rates drop significantly in the US later in life. At the very least I’ve never come across any data backing the common claim in the media of an explosion in divorce late in life.  This also makes intuitive sense.  Women’s incentive to divorce would seem much lower later in life given their slim and rapidly declining remarriage prospects, their increasing physical and financial vulnerability, and the fact that if they stay married they are likely to receive over half of the couple’s assets during retirement.

Since the Daily Mail story was about women in the UK, I did some digging for the data on this question there.  The data in the chart below is from this report, specifically table 4 in this spreadsheet:

Note that the age brackets expand starting at age 50, so the drop after their late 40s is actually much steeper than the graph would suggest.  At some point mortality has to be playing a significant role here, but I don’t think it explains the number of divorces to women in their 50s being less than half that of women in their late 40s.  This still doesn’t tell us the number of divorces per 1,000 married women, but it would seem to pour cold water on the media’s hyping of late life divorce in the UK as well.

Note:  If you have any links to better data please share them in the comments below.

July 22nd 2011 Update:  I found the UK data I was looking for.

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This entry was posted in Aging Feminists, Choice Addiction, Data, Divorce, Grey Divorce, Post Marital Spinsterhood, selling divorce. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to How common is late life divorce?

  1. J says:

    I think it helps to remember that while women like the ones in the original story are shown as representing the norm, thankfully they really don’t.

    Isn’t that what I’ve been trying to say???

  2. terri says:

    Whew! Thank goodness. I was beginning to think Al and Tipper were representative of the masses, lol.

  3. Dalrock says:

    @J

    Isn’t that what I’ve been trying to say???

    You have been conflating three different things: 1) The prevalence of the message to women selling divorce, including the pitch that “everyone is doing it”. and 2) How effective the efforts to convince women to divorce are. and 3) Actual divorce rates, especially regarding the common media assertion of an explosion of grey divorce. I’ve been trying to explain this, but you appear not to want to accept any data until you can determine that it confirms your world view. I’ve been tackling these three separately. On item 1, I have shown that it is near universal and relentless. On item 2, the fact that women initiate divorce at (at least) twice the rate of men shows that the message is quite often effective. On item 3, I’ve shown this same basic data since the beginning of the blog. I shared the US Census chart just a few months ago, and I shared very similar data the first month I started blogging.

  4. J says:

    D, did you see my post to you towards the end of the Divorce Retirement post?

    [D: Yes. I take it you didn't see my reply.]

  5. J says:

    LOL.. I just answered it and returned to this thread to tell you that I had posted a response there. Asta manana. I’m going to bed.

  6. TPH91 says:

    Is this data useful? It disregards cohorts. Any 20 yo man looking to weight the advantages and disadvantages of marriage would basically have to bet that his 18 yo lovely has the same outlook toward the culture of marriage that his 65 yo granny had for this data to say anything.

    Which strikes me as a dubious proposition.

  7. Oak says:

    Unfortunately, most of the older married couples I know are far from happy. Separate bedrooms, separate lives. My girlfriend often openly states she wishes her parents would divorce, and ‘just get it over with’.

    There is such a lack positive marriage examples in my life. Maybe it’s a West Coast thing, but out of the 6 friends of mine that got married, 6 of them got divorced. One of them twice, the others sworn off marriage. I looked at the 100% divorce rate in my social circles and decided I couldn’t see any advantages. Well, that and I work in a field that is predominately female, and after a few years of listening about these selfish, idiotic creatures called ‘husbands’, I pledged never to become one. (Tongue firmly in cheek.)

  8. Dalrock says:

    @TPH91

    Is this data useful? It disregards cohorts. Any 20 yo man looking to weight the advantages and disadvantages of marriage would basically have to bet that his 18 yo lovely has the same outlook toward the culture of marriage that his 65 yo granny had for this data to say anything.

    Which strikes me as a dubious proposition.

    That is a different question than the one I’m trying to answer. The press is constantly yammering on about how so many women are divorcing late in life. I’m saying the data I can find doesn’t back that up. You are right that you can’t take data like this and assume the women in their 20s now will look like older women today after the requisite number of years. This is especially true because women in their 20s today look very different than previous generations regarding marriage.

  9. greyghost says:

    Based on what we have here it looks like the Daily Mail article was more of a sales pitch for divorce than any than an article on a real trend. But it really is amazing this push to break up married couples. We just had an article about how retired women are living in poverty reguardless of how much they start out with. Check this out http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2006943/Former-nude-model-richest-divorcee-history-declares-bankrupt.html (21 years and billion damn dollars gone) Women do what they think is in their interest reguardless of reality.
    My favorite article from you Dalrock was this http://dalrock.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/a-post-marital-spinsters-rationalization-hamster-in-the-final-stages-of-exhaustion/ That was a masterpiece. MGTOW aims to do the same only involuntarily. That last article is what happens to women willingly and with glee and anticipation of the eat,pray, love lifestyle. (getting that good settlement and all) Think of the photo of a woman that is 60 that wanted to marry that is childless and had to work for every thing she has due to no qualifiers for a wealth transfer. (single and childless). That condition was not a choice she made but a decision made by men. (that is why there is no male birth control pill)
    Keep talking to them Dalrock maybe one of your female followers may get that it is in their best selfish interest to allow joy in their husband’s life and actually feel joy in themselves because it.

  10. Pingback: Divorcing under the influence | Dalrock

  11. Eric says:

    Dalrock:
    I can’t help but wonder, though, how many of those over 55s in the study were already on their 2nd or 3rd marriage by the time they were over 55. There would be no need for them to divorce since they were already living off a steady marriage-pension (i.e. alimony); and, with their current husbands well on the way to the graveyard, the prospects of a fat inheritance could be forfeit by a needless divorce.

  12. Kathy says:

    “maybe one of your female followers may get that it is in their best selfish interest to allow joy in their husband’s life and actually feel joy in themselves because it.”

    I feel that you are speaking specifically of your own situation here, Greyghost. I know that you have young kids, you are around fifty and in an unhappy marriage with a shrewish wife .(I have read quite a few of your comments at various blogs) Obviously it would not be in your interest to leave the marriage as the wife would take you to the cleaners, divorce laws being what they are in America. Then there’s your kids(whom you love) to consider. Very tough situation for you.. :(

    Have you tried gaming her? Might alter her mood somewhat and make life more pleasant for you.

  13. greyghost says:

    Funny you should say so Kathy. Basicly I have pretty much given up on a wife. I have other issues to worry about and spend most of my effort gaming my wife to be independant and able to take care of things without me. (very hard to do) The biggest issue with leaving my marriage is the effect it will have on my kids. Without the kids there is no reason to be with this or any woman. I offered a divorce to her and she is afraid of it and the finacial hit would not be as bad as I thought it would be at first so it is an option. What I find really amazing about the whole thing is mine is a good marriage. Her friends (and /or coworkers) are worse. There are a couple of guys I work with are in living hells but once again they are held hostage over the kids. This is my main goal is to address that issue.
    How I found the mens blogs was by accident of looking for a way to divorce the wife and keep my kids. Over time I learned that what I have as a wife is actually “normal”, there is no better life that involves women. So my life’s mission is to try and find a way for my son to just be a good working man and live in a world that will love him for it instead of the world we have now where working beta men are hated and laughed at by all levels of society. .

  14. Eric says:

    Greyghost::
    “So my life’s mission is to try and find a way for my son to just be a good working man and live in a world that will love him instead of the world we have now where working men are hated and laughed at by all levels of society”.

    It’s not the world generally, it’s our culture specifically. Steer him out of that, and he should do alright.

  15. greyghost says:

    Yes you are correct Eric and maybe it was just a bad choice of words. The culture will need to be changed. But it appears you understand the point.

  16. Dalrock says:

    @Eric

    I can’t help but wonder, though, how many of those over 55s in the study were already on their 2nd or 3rd marriage by the time they were over 55. There would be no need for them to divorce since they were already living off a steady marriage-pension (i.e. alimony); and, with their current husbands well on the way to the graveyard, the prospects of a fat inheritance could be forfeit by a needless divorce.

    I remembered your question here when I recently found some data. These tables should answer your question. Since the table I shared for the US is white women, I’ll answer for that same group. 21% of white women in their 50s have married (exactly) twice. 15% of white women in their 50s are currently married to their second husband. Another 7% of white women in their 50s have married 3 or more times. 5% are currently married to a third or greater husband.

    As I recall your preference is for Hispanic women, so here are the same stats for Hispanic women in their 50s. 11% married exactly twice. 6% are married to a second husband. 3.3% have married 3 or more times, 2.8% are married to a third or greater husband.

    Check out the actual tables for full context though. It also shows percent ever married, percent widowed, percent ever widowed, etc.

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