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