Post-marital spinsterhood part two: the data.

As I mentioned on my first post on the topic, I’ve noticed a shift across the generations on how men felt about remarriage.  It strikes me that men are both less willing to remarry after divorce (especially if they already have children), and less willing to marry a woman who previously divorced.  Lavazza and grerp both made comments on grerp’s question for the gentleman post which shared this same impression:

grerp:

there are a number of men who have been burned by relationships and are choosing not to marry a second time where perhaps before they would have chalked up the failure of their marriage to having chosen the wrong person instead of having chosen to participate in a broken institution.

Lavazza:

I think this is very true. I guess the divide goes around birth year 1965 (give or take some years). Most men born before that year would have had the reflex to remarry using your described reasoning, whereas most men born after that year will see the institution as failed.

Anecdote is all well and good, but I wanted data.  After all, J might know a bussload of former nuns who had each married several times without difficulty.  So using Google as my friend I set out to find whatever hard data I could.  The remainder of this post is what I found.  If anyone has better data or can fill in any of the gaps, please don’t hesitate to share it.  Please note that all charts displayed on this post link to a larger version of the same chart.  In some cases the larger versions include more information on the methodology or source data.

One of the first sites I found when searching was remarriage.com, specifically their page on remarriage facts:

Remarriage statistics complied from the National Center for Health Statistics (2002) show:

* 54 percent of divorced women remarry within 5 years

* 75 percent of divorced women remarry within 10 years

* Black women are the least likely to remarry

* White women are the most likely to remarry

So there you have it, a site dedicated to the topic of remarriage quoting a relatively recent study showing that divorced women (at least divorced white women) don’t find it difficult to remarry.  Here’s the graph of the same data from page 32 of the original NCHS/CDC study in 2002:

Click for larger graph.Notice the date in the bottom of the chart?  The study was done in 2002, but it used data from 1995.  Now this newish report isn’t seeming quite so new after all.  It gets worse.  In order to calculate remarriage rates 10 years after divorce in 1995, the divorces in question actually occurred in 1985!*

Click for larger chart.As you can see from the chart above, timing matters.  Likelihood of remarriage has been steadily decreasing since 1950.  The chart ends in 1989, but some other data points I’ve found separately suggest the trend has remained in place since then.  The thing is, the stats presented are relatively well known.  I’ve had them quoted to me this year in the comments threads of other bloggers.  Women are hearing these stats based on divorces 25 years ago, and thinking this represents the remarriage prospects for divorcées today.

Before we look at more recent data to try to fill in the gaps, I wanted to share some other fascinating charts from the same report.  First, as you might expect, younger women have an easier time remarrying than older ones:

Age matters.  Click for larger chart.Also, where the woman lives impacts her likelihood of remarrying:

Location matters:  Click for larger chart.Interestingly, for whites at least second marriages aren’t that much more likely to break up than first marriages (roughly 30% vs 40% after 10 years).  First marriages of whites are as likely to be disrupted within 15 years as second marriages are within 10 years.  Note the different time scales on the following two charts when comparing them:

Click for larger chart.Click for larger chart.

Filling in the remarriage rate gap since 1985.

The next data is from The National Marriage Project report The State of Our Unions.  They don’t have specific stats on remarriage rates, but by looking at related trends we can fill in some of the blanks.

First note that less of the adult population is married now than in the past (though almost all whites still do marry at least once):

Of those who are married, fewer are divorcing since 1980.  So the number of new divorcées per year must also be declining as a percentage of the population:

Even though the supply of new divorcées is rapidly falling, the likelihood of being divorced has continued to increase during this same time period:

I don’t see any way to interpret the three charts above except to assume that the trend of declining remarriage has continued if not accelerated.

Before moving on to some more data on remarriage rates, I thought I would share one more graph from the same Marriage Project report (Fig 4, P 67).  Despite feminist myth-making to the contrary, men and women both were happier with their marriages before the feminists “fixed” marriage by creating incentives for divorce.  This was true even though a far greater percentage of the population was married at the time.  Presumably the marriages which aren’t happening today are the ones where people would be even less happy, so this is a very powerful trend:

Data on remarriage rates for older women.

The next set of data I will share is from page 148 of a report by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) titled 65+ in the United States: 2005.  Like the AARP study conducted the year before, this report focuses on older Americans.  The relevant data is all from 1990, but this is still better than the 1985 data we saw in the original chart.  It also allows us to see in more detail how age impacts remarriage rates, since the other report only looked women above or below 25.

In 1990, 30 of 1,000 divorced women aged 45 to 64 re-married during the year, a decrease from 45 per 1,000 in 1960.  A comparable proportionate decline is seen for remarriage among women aged 65 and older; 4 per 1,000 divorced older women remarried during 1990, compared with 9 per  1,000 in 1960. Divorced men, on the other hand, were more likely to remarry, although they also experienced declines in remarriage rates.  In 1990, 67 per 1,000 divorced men aged 45 to 64 remarried, a decrease from 97 per 1,000 in 1960. In 1990, 19 per 1,000 divorced men aged 65 and older remarried, compared with 30 per 1,000 in 1960 (Clarke, 1995b; National Center for Health Statistics [NCHS], 1964).

I’ve seen the data for divorced women over 45 stated in a very misleading way.  Specifically here:

For divorced women, the probability of remarriage after age 45 is less than 5 percent.

What they should have said is only 3% of divorced women age 45 to 65 marry in any given year.  After 65 a divorced woman’s chance of remarriage drops to a vanishingly small 4 in 1,000 or .4% per year!  And keep in mind that this data is 20 years old so given the trends we have seen even these amazingly low rates likely greatly overstate the remarriage prospects faced by older women divorcing today.

Note: I did a separate post on the AARP study which reinforces what these other data sources are showing.  Instead of repeating it here I’ll simply link to my previous post.

*Update: It turns out the data on remarriage rates is even more problematic than I first thought.

Dec 21 2012 Update:  We now have a fresh snapshot of remarriage rates using what appears to be a more solid data set.

This entry was posted in Aging Feminists, Choice Addiction, Finding a Spouse, Grey Divorce, Marriage, Post Marital Spinsterhood, Remarriage Strike and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Post-marital spinsterhood part two: the data.

  1. Lavazza says:

    Interesting. We need really fresh data to be able to see if my guess holds true, that is data for men born 1965-1975 who got divorced in 2005 or earlier and compare them to men born before 1955-1965 who got divorced in 1995 or earlier. My own sample is just a couple of friends and acquaintances.

    [D: I had the same impression as you before looking at the data. My sense now is that it is more of a long running trend and not a specific age group where it all of a sudden changes. But wherever you are those older than you are probably much more likely to be willing to remarry than those younger than you.]

    I tried to check the stats for my native Sweden, but I only found this.

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/584719

    In the 50ies and 60ies around 65 % of divorced men would be remarried in 10 years. It is quite safe to assume that this figure has dropped to under 50 % in these 50 years.

    [D: Based on the US data I would say the 1950s data has no bearing whatsoever on what is happening today in Sweden. If nothing else the profound lack of interest in this important trend is in itself interesting. We see marriage and divorce rates constantly rehashed, but no one has been interested in this in the US for 20 years. I think there is too much investment in the idea that women can divorce and easily remarry.]

  2. I think for myself at least that if everything fell apart in my marriage that I would simply be done with it in general. I don’t want more kids, so no need to create a family structure. I believe that effect plays in the minds of many men.

  3. Anonymous age 68 says:

    Good job spotting that obsolete data used on this topic.

    But, alas, you did not spot the same exact obsolete data used to convince the simple folk that since 90% of people historically married at least once, that will magically continue to be true. You and grerp agreed that will be true, yet it is impossible for many of the same reasons shown in this blog.

    Anyone with a very basic grasp of calculus can tell at a glance the sharp reduction in marriage rates in recent years simply cannot produce that same 90% figure in the future.

    I would try to explain it to you, but others posted to both you and grerp and it went in this ear and out the other. If you figure it out, you will believe it.

  4. jack says:

    Looking forward to mocking a large group of crying spinsters, very soon.

    [D: Why wait? From the data they are already here. Although denial is strong so I doubt they are openly crying about it.]

  5. Dex says:

    “Despite feminist myth-making to the contrary, men and women both were happier with their marriages before the feminists “fixed” marriage by creating incentives for divorce.”
    This reminds me of something from Dan Gilbert’s “Stumbling On Happiness”. Studies show that people are happier with the irrevocable choices they have made than with the ones they could change later.

  6. Lavazza says:

    Dex: As I see it there are two explanations for this. 1) People do not like admitting that they were wrong, so if they make a bad decision they cannot change, they will look for reasons why it was a good decision. 2) If there’s no easy way out you have to put in an effort to make things work, which also gives a great sense of pride when the efforts are met with success.

  7. Blah_Blah says:

    Or maybe life has just been getting steadily harder for the last five decades.

  8. Dex says:

    Yes. I can’t lay my hands on the book at the moment, but as I recall Gilbert went with the former. We have no defense mechanisms against regrets for things we didn’t do or choose but have plenty to reinforce the choices we made.

  9. Lavazza says:

    Dex: I think that is a wise and healthy attitude. Just like, when in a slump or as a regular practice, thinking about the things in your life that you are thankful for. There is a limit when trying to learn from prior experiences/mistakes gets in the way of appreciating what you have and/or have had. Some of the best things in my life have been the result of situations I was not happy about when they happened.

    “Gust Avrakotos: There’s a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse… and everybody in the village says, “how wonderful. The boy got a horse” And the Zen master says, “we’ll see.” Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, “How terrible.” And the Zen master says, “We’ll see.” Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight… except the boy can’t cause his legs all messed up. and everybody in the village says, “How wonderful.”

    Charlie Wilson: Now the Zen master says, “We’ll see.” ”

    Charlie Wilson’s War

    “One who neither hates nor desires the fruits of his activities is known to be always renounced. Such a person, liberated from all dualities, easily overcomes material bondage and is completely liberated, O mighty-armed Arjuna.”

    Bagavad Gita, Chapter 5, Verse 3.

    “One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme God, is not affected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water.”

    Chapter 5, Verse 10.

    “The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to Me; whereas a person who is not in union with the Divine, who is greedy for the fruits of his labor, becomes entangled.”

    Chapter 5, Verse 12.

  10. dalrock says:

    @Anon at 68
    Good job spotting that obsolete data used on this topic.

    But, alas, you did not spot the same exact obsolete data used to convince the simple folk that since 90% of people historically married at least once, that will magically continue to be true. You and grerp agreed that will be true, yet it is impossible for many of the same reasons shown in this blog.

    This is just plain untrue. In my Grey Divorce part II and Marriage Strike posts I specifically said you can’t assume that what is true for those in their 30s and 40s today will be true for future generations at those ages especially since the younger generations are making different choices than their predecessors did. My comment in grerps post said the same thing:

    I also agree with the statement above that the 90% eventual figure is questionable at best. You can’t predict the outcomes of people in their twenties today based on people who 20 years ago made a very different set of choices.


    Feel free to disagree with me, but please stop making things up.

    Anyone with a very basic grasp of calculus can tell at a glance the sharp reduction in marriage rates in recent years simply cannot produce that same 90% figure in the future.

    I would try to explain it to you, but others posted to both you and grerp and it went in this ear and out the other. If you figure it out, you will believe it.

    This is a math problem. Why do you need to make it personal? I’m all ears. Tell me where I got it wrong. I explained my case in detail, and no one has pointed out an error. Telling me to learn calculus isn’t an argument.

  11. J says:

    I think for myself at least that if everything fell apart in my marriage that I would simply be done with it in general. I don’t want more kids, so no need to create a family structure. I believe that effect plays in the minds of many men.

    For many women too. I know several divorcees/widows who are done having kids or have adult kids, but still want male companionship. Two have been living with men in monogamous relationships for several years but don’t want to marry the men for a variety of reasons, including reductions of SS widow’s benefits. Others just don’t want to be taken advantage of as wives; they feel that men take them less for granted as girlfriends. I have one divorced friend who’s been going with the same guy for over a decade. The secrert of their happiness is that when they get sick of each other, one of them goes home.

    Although I do insist, so often that I drive Dalrock crazy, that it would be relatively easy for me to remarry if my husband died, I’m not sure I’d want to. I see middle-ages BF/GF couples that seem fairly committed without making the compromises that marriage requires. I think it might be hard to work out a new set of compromises with a new guy. It’s taken me over 20 years to work out what I have now.

  12. J says:

    Looking forward to mocking a large group of crying spinsters, very soon.

    Then I feel bad for you for being the sort of person who needs the misery of others to feel good. A man who is happy with a woman of his own wouldn’t make a comment like that.

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  14. jack says:

    J:

    There are lots of guys like me. Anyway, you are using a thinly veiled version of feminist shaming language, implying that I am a loser for hatin’ on these gals.

    Not true. There is something very cathartic about seeing bad behavior punished.

    Actually, I would be a sick individual if I wished the best for these kind of women. They have been selfish and shallow, and it is natural and right to be pleased that their behavior is not being rewarded.

    By the time these shallow entitled princesses finally ascertain their true market value, the closing bell will have already rang in the great sexual/romantic stock market.

    Accuse me of bitterness if you must, but please realize that no amount of shaming language can attenuate my glee at their plight.

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  16. Mirco says:

    I will try to use praxeology to analyze the marriage market and its dynamics.
    Marriage will happen only if both parties believe that their future will be better if they marry the other than it would be if they don’t.
    We know that black, white, latino and east asian IQ distributions are different and that women IQ distribution is different than men IQ distribution.
    Women are hypergamous
    http://alfin2100.blogspot.com/2009/04/iq-by-nation-iq-by-race-us-iq-inherited.html
    http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/g.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bell_Curve

    So, we have various curves partially overlapping.

    Marriage happen only if both the man and the woman will believe that the net profits of be married will be greater of the imposed costs to be so.
    As the advantages to be married reduces (for the man, the woman or both) we will see less marriages happening.
    If the costs to marry outside their own racial group reduce, we will see more inter-racial marriages.

    One of the costs of be married is the lower IQ of the other partner:
    If he or she is low IQ, it is more probable that he is more in need of help than able to give help, more probable to need to be provided for than to provide for the other.
    This could partially explain the higher divorce rate of blacks compared to the other groups.

    Another cost is the IQ difference: if it is large enough, the man and the woman will have difficulties to have shared interests, to talk to each other and keep the bond together, albeit this could be compensated by unbringing, education, economic interests, etc.

    If we combine this together, we will see that high IQ black men and women will have a much larger pool of prospective mates outside their racial group than inside, so they will have an higher chance to marry outside. As the respective IQ go down, they are less probable to marry outside their race group but also they are less probable to marry and more probable to divorce.

    I agree that “You can’t predict the outcomes of people in their twenties today based on people who 20 years ago made a very different set of choices.” But it is possible to guess the outcomes as the current conditions will dictate many of the possible choices.

    For example, if the utility of marriage don’t grow, it is improbable we will see more marriage in the future. If the cost to be unmarried grow, we will see more people married.

  17. Doug1 says:

    J–

    Others just don’t want to be taken advantage of as wives; they feel that men take them less for granted as girlfriends.

    This definitely goes both ways. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t remarried but have had long relationships.

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  19. J says:

    @jack

    Anyway, you are using a thinly veiled version of feminist shaming language, implying that I am a loser for hatin’ on these gals

    OMG, no! Not the dreaded feminist shaming language!

    Do you have to be a feminist to regard schadenfreude as a sad thing?

  20. J says:

    J: Others just don’t want to be taken advantage of as wives; they feel that men take them less for granted as girlfriends.

    Doug 1: This definitely goes both ways. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t remarried but have had long relationships.

    I think it’s a social trend. People who don’t want kids don’t want to risk being burnt twice. I know one couple who are both divorced with kids. They’ve been together over 20 years. I knew them for abot two years before I realized that they were not married.

  21. J says:

    After all, J might know a bussload of former nuns who had each married several times without difficulty

    I just noticed this.

    All my ex-nun friends and acquaintances are very Catholic. They don’t believe in divorce, my Protestant friend. So unless you count leaving Jesus as a divorce, they tend to be one man women.😉

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  40. marion says:

    The whole thing is so sad. We believe the erroneous idea that somehow in life we DESERVE to be “happy”…Happiness has become the God of existence vs. the reality that we are all flawed, marriage is hard work at best, and the virtues of integrity and commitment always outweigh selfishness. True joy, peace, and happiness come from living with integrity and service to others. Until society becomes less self-oriented, this unfortunate trend will continue.

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