I’m pretty well done with this topic, at least for now. However I did find the data I was looking for in the UK in my previous post on how common late life divorce is. This data is from the same ONS spreadsheet as the other UK data I shared, but on tab 3b. The title had confused me at first which is why I missed it:
Sex and age at divorce of wife (rates), 1950-2009
Aren’t all wives women? At any rate, the data is pretty interesting and blows away the media hype in the UK that late life divorce is frequent or an exploding trend. Here is the distribution per 1,000 married women for 2009:
If you want to see the data in table form here is an image (if you want it in spreadsheet form click on the spreadsheet link above).
To put the media’s spin on this into perspective, here is what The Guardian wrote in March of 2009:
Adult children of divorce, or Acods as they are increasingly known, are a fast-growing phenomenon. While the overall number of divorces has fallen for a third year in a row to its lowest level in 26 years, the number of over-60s choosing to end their marriages has increased by more than a third in the space of a decade.
They must be looking at total numbers of divorces for the age bracket or maybe older data, because the rate per 1,000 married women in that bracket went from 1.3 in 2000 to 1.5 in 2009. While proportionally it sounds like a huge jump, the values are so small here that it is misleading. Try to find a noteworthy bump in the purple line at the bottom of the last graph. This is what they are getting excited about. Also, the 1.5 per 1,000 married women value isn’t out of the historical range for this group. In 1972 it was over twice this at 3.2. How many people who read that article would have known that it was talking about something which is extremely infrequent?
Here is what The Daily Mail said about late life divorce in June of 2010:
Many couples of a similar age share Sarah’s sentiments. In 2007, the latest figures available in the UK, 50 per cent more over-60s got divorced than ten years previously.
In 1998 the value was 1.2, and in 2007 it was 1.6.
Here is what The Times wrote in June of 2010:
The Office of National Statistics shows that the rate of divorce is dropping sharply in every age group, except the over-60s — this includes every age over 60, because the statisticians never anticipated the need to start separate graphs for the seventies, eighties, and nineties. The world’s oldest divorcés, Bertie and Jessie Woods, made history last year by divorcing when they had both reached the age of 98.
So why, instead of cruising off into their dotage hand in hand, are the grandparent generation single-handedly dragging the average divorce age up every year?
Edit Nov 2011: The latest offering in this genre from the Daily Mail: Rise of the ‘silver separations’: Divorce rate for over-60s surges Note that this is referencing “new” data from 2009, the same year as the latest ONS data I was able to find.
Update: I now have data on 2009 US divorce rates per 1,000 married women by age.