The truth vs the hype: UK divorce rate data by age per 1,000 married women

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:

Here is the trend for the last 30 years of available data:

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 MailRise 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.

This entry was posted in Aging Feminists, Choice Addiction, Daily Mail, Data, Divorce, Grey Divorce, selling divorce, The Guardian. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to The truth vs the hype: UK divorce rate data by age per 1,000 married women

  1. Doug1 says:

    Settles it.

  2. Opus says:

    Living as I do in the UK, – and bearing in mind that the UK is not America, or indeed anywhere else for that matter – I am naturally very interested in the Data, which is very much as I would expect it from my observation of people I know, casually or otherwise. What often happens, as you can see from the charts, is that an early marriage peters out sometime in the parties twenties, but most people once married, tend to remain married, – and if they don’t they soon remarry – and of course something similar happens with those who are not married but just live together (though I understand that the rate of partnership breakdown is higher that for those who are married), and similarily for those who although not co-habiting have a relationship with a significant other. In short relationships tend to stability, as of course does NOT having a relationship.

    What I cannot explain – and I have an excuse for my ignorance as I was in the United States at the time – is why there is an enormous jump in Divorces in about 1984 for the teens and twenties. I am not aware of any change in the laws that were implemented at that time that would account for the sudden jump – or indeed for its gradual tailing off. One likes to blame Thatcher for everything, but here I just cannot see any connection.

  3. Thag Jones says:

    I thought that was odd too, Opus.

    And this is why I try to avoid reading these kinds of “articles”. A load of rubbish as usual. What is their point in encouraging divorce for older women anyway? Who benefits from this?

  4. Dalrock says:

    @Thag
    What is their point in encouraging divorce for older women anyway? Who benefits from this?

    This is a great question. I suspect it is a combination of factors:

    1) Feminists are infatuated with the idea of divorce and terrified of the thought of women being expected to keep their promises. It is strange because many of the same feminists are also deeply invested in the idea of marriage. So we end up with women like J who are pro marriage, but who also argue that a) it isn’t natural for women to be monogamous, b) we shouldn’t judge women who divorce without a solid reason, and c) that life is too long now to expect women to stay married to the same man. I think this comes down to liking the inherent resource transfer from men to women built into marriage, while being infatuated with the perceived power they believe divorce offers unilaterally to women.

    2) If they can convince women that divorce is inevitable, selling divorce to younger women gets easier as well. Why stick it through if it turns out you are just going to give up on your vows when you get older anyway? This is a sort of two in one divorce selling deal. This compliments the divorce fantasies like EPL and single in the suburbs showing a woman in her late 30s to early 40s experiencing an exciting new love. Women of all ages seem to be able to identify with these divorce fantasy stories.

    3) Papers need something dramatic to sell copy, and the average woman appears to really enjoy reading stories about surges in divorce (see item 1 above).

  5. Stephenie Rowling says:

    @Dalrock
    Interesting break down.

    I will add that I think the wedding industry is probably benefiting for the double propaganda. Is your special day you deserve the best, then if he is not the one divorce, then you deserve a second chance at happiness get your TRULY special day now.
    Just a theory though but once upon a time the second marriage was not considered so much of a celebration now second and third brides can get a white wedding in the same vein as the first one with total social acceptation. I see a lot of wedding stories featuring second brides and is very interesting how similar to a first bride they behave, even though people face a double chance at divorce with second marriage. Just a though.

  6. johnnymilfquest says:

    I hadn’t heard anything – hype or otherwise – about UK divorce rates increasing for any particular age group.

    However, I was aware that the UK media recently reported a decline in the divorce rate in tandem with a much larger decline in the overall marriage rate.

  7. Dorian Modra says:

    Nice work. I’d love to see similar stats for the US. However, I think you missed an important stat: the marriage rate. If people are getting married less, i.e., being more careful about who they marry, these stats would be skewed due to self-selection of the sample pool.

    http://forpoorer.blogspot.com/

  8. Badger says:

    It’s really unreal to see major media outlets essentially cheerleading the destruction of marriages.

    I bet these same papers have major shills for gay marriage on their staffs.

  9. Badger says:

    Amendment to my comment: cheerleading the destruction of marriages, using bogus statistics to leverage peer pressure.

    [D: Nailed it.]

  10. Dalrock says:

    @Dorian Modra

    Nice work. I’d love to see similar stats for the US. However, I think you missed an important stat: the marriage rate. If people are getting married less, i.e., being more careful about who they marry, these stats would be skewed due to self-selection of the sample pool.

    Thanks! I’ve written several posts about the percentage of people getting married. This one is probably the best place to start and it links to others at the bottom. In short what the data shows is that people are clearly marrying later. What this will turn into down the road is something we can only speculate on, but it seems unlikely to me that it won’t result in some level of decline in lifetime marriage rates. Either way, there is still the kind of filtering going on that you are thinking of. Fewer young people are marrying, so one might expect that this is a group which is more committed/fit for marriage than their peers who are delaying marriage. This may well explain why the younger age brackets are seeing such a decline in divorce in the UK.

  11. Thag Jones says:

    Badger, it’s the same tactic used by the early “pro-choice” movement. Make people think it’s common or that a particular opinion is held by the majority, using false numbers to support that claim, and gradually it becomes accepted as truth, whether or not it has majority support.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Yup, the Big Lie… like Joseph Goebbels said: Tell a big lie, tell it often often enought and eventually it becomes the truth.

  13. J says:

    testing

  14. J says:

    So we end up with women like J who are pro marriage, but who also argue that a) it isn’t natural for women to be monogamous, b) we shouldn’t judge women who divorce without a solid reason, and c) that life is too long now to expect women to stay married to the same man. I think this comes down to liking the inherent resource transfer from men to women built into marriage, while being infatuated with the perceived power they believe divorce offers unilaterally to women.

    I think you are oversimplifying and misunderstanding my comments. I’ll address a) “it isn’t natural for women to be monogamous in this post,” but I’m going to break my answer up into several posts because I keep losing posts today for some reason.

    I’ve clarifed my position on this once before in the original discussion, but let;s try again:

    Evolution does not favor any particular moral position or individual organisms. It operates in an amoral way to insure that populations of organisms survive, not that individuals live or are happy. Just as there are environmental conditions that may favor light skin over dark skin or bushy tails over furless tails, there are most likely conditions that favor promiscuity over monogamy–AND vice-versa. Where it is adaptive for many R-selected children to survive in great numbers, promiscuity will reign for both sexes. The manosphere acknowleges the evolutionary value of men spreading their seed far and wide. In the post you are referencing, I offered an explanation for the presistence of female promiscuity in mentioning the work of anthropologist Sarah Hrdy who said that female promiscuity may be adaptive because it allows women to gather resources with the aid of a number of men and because it allows a woman to expand the gene pool from which her offspring can benefit. I also said that there are situations that favor K-selected children and that those conditions favor monogamy for both sexes. I tied that idea to the natural breakup rate of 50% that Helen Fisher discusses.

    That is not quite the same as saying monogamy is unnatural women or endorsing female promiscuity. It is saying that monogamy may be unnatural for members of both sexes from an evo-psych perspective.

  15. J says:

    b) we shouldn’t judge women who divorce without a solid reason

    Again, I’m not sure that I’ve explicitedly said this. I’ve said that:

    a) as someone who has worked in mental health, that I do not believing shaming to be a healthful or effective tactic for social change. It just damages and angers people. Fat acceptance, for example, is the backlash for years of fat shaming.

    b) that my congregation seeks to support both members of a divorcing couple and that I approved of that.

    c) that I personally am a Myers-Briggs “perceiver” as opposed to a “judger”

    d) that it’s hard to judge other couple’s unhappiness, and

    e) when both of a divorcing couple seem less concernied about their divorce than I am, maybe I should not concern myself.

    I also don’t recall advocating shaming men who divorce with a reason that is compelling to me.

  16. J says:

    c) that life is too long now to expect women to stay married to the same man.

    Ironically, the first time that issue came up I was quoting a man I called “the curmudgeon” who was hitting on me and telling me how bored he was with his nearly 40 year marriage. He felt that 40 years with one woman was too long, and I told him that he might well be seeking to trade one woman’s BS for another woman’s BS. He said that, at this point, fresh BS would at least be new.

    One thing I do notice about the silver divorces that I see IRL is that they really do tend to end mutually and “not with a bang, but a whimper.” In the one divorce that I’ve discussed on this blog where vague “unhappiness” is the problem, it wasn’t a case of a woman leaving a “boring, but loyal” guy. It was a case of two people suffering a pervasive miserableness, seeking both individual therapy and marriage counseling together and then throwing in the towel. In the specific case I mentioned, both parties seem happier than before. The wife looks terrific, and the husband has told my husband (They still play music together.) that he is pretty happy without the wife. He even gets along better with his son now that he can see him at weekends without the wife (who spoiled the kid rotten) there. How can I judge that?

    Other cases I’ve seen ten d to break up more according to John Gottman’s scenario of unresolved conflicts leading to lack of communication and contempt.(www.gottman.com) The couple begins to lead paralllel lines under the same roof until a life change like empty-nesting or retirement brings the couple to a place where there can no longer pretend that they are not in a dead marriage. I would hope that couple can find their way out of that (and proactively try to avoid myown marriage coming to that), but should I insist that people stay in dead marriages? Especially when the kids are gone? Should I grieve over Al and Tipper Gore, the supposed poster kids for senseless gray divorce? He was propositioning masseuses, and she was also involve in something if I recall. Their break-up isn’t the end of my world.

  17. J says:

    I think this comes down to liking the inherent resource transfer from men to women built into marriage,

    IRL, I don’t see this happening. I recently found out, to my great surprise, that I live in an alimony state. I was discussing what I read about “divorce theft” in the manosphere with an attorney friend of mine. She said that the only women she has ever gotten alimony for were older women who had put their husbands through law or med school and then never worked again. If a woman has a work record these days, there is no alimony awarded. Nor, she said, does “stealth alimony exist. The law mandates X% of income per child be paid and women can be ordered to pay child support when the husband has custody. In any case, divorce is no gravy train for women. My friend, incidentally, does represent men about as often as women and does try to talk both parties out of divorce.

    while being infatuated with the perceived power they believe divorce offers unilaterally to women.

    I don’t know anyone who is not aware that an ex can continue to continue to exert power through the court system. Anybody who thinks a divorce is the end of their troubles with an ex is crazy. To take an extreme case, if Bill Price’s ex has a blog, I’m sure she writes about how he attempts to control her freedom to remarry and to travel by hauling her into court. (Lest there be another misunderstanding, let me add that I favor the rights of the Price kids to maintain a stable relationship with their dad over the rights of either parent.) Rightly or wrongly, I’m sure she feels that he maintains some power over her life. You’d have to be completely blind to the experiences of every divorced person you know to think that divorce ends your troubles. And no reputable lawyer would advice a client differently.

  18. Dalrock says:

    @J

    IRL, I don’t see this happening. I recently found out, to my great surprise, that I live in an alimony state. I was discussing what I read about “divorce theft” in the manosphere with an attorney friend of mine. She said that the only women she has ever gotten alimony for were older women who had put their husbands through law or med school and then never worked again. If a woman has a work record these days, there is no alimony awarded. Nor, she said, does “stealth alimony exist. The law mandates X% of income per child be paid and women can be ordered to pay child support when the husband has custody.

    Your unwillingness to acknowledge even basic facts is what makes discussing anything with you extremely tedious. You probably think it makes you seem witty or clever. It doesn’t. No one is fooled but you. I can’t be the only one who has noticed that to you the acronym “IRL” means J went to lunch with another one of her girlfriends. Stand by for another absurd story about former nuns, etc.

    My original point was that marriage itself involves an inherent resource transfer from men to women. You denied this without even giving it any consideration. This is at the core of the deal. Marriage was the way societies encouraged men to stick around and invest in their children and their children’s mother. I’m sure you know a former nun or two who supported some deadbeat man who is a one dimensional character straight out of an Oprah book club reading, but your anecdote doesn’t change the fact that this is overwhelmingly the case.

    As for your assertions that child support is awarded to men and women fairly, and that it doesn’t provide women a financial incentive to divorce, this is pure nonsense. It is still nonsense even if you went to lunch with a woman who is a divorce lawyer. In real life, women know they are all but guaranteed to be able to get custody. I’ve shared this multiple times, but I’ll provide the link yet again to the study which found that this is a primary incentive to women (but not men) to divorce. In real life, the woman who did the study exists even though you didn’t have lunch with her. Seriously. But women being all but guaranteed custody is just the first step in the unfair system. In the odd case where a father gets custody, he is significantly less likely to be awarded child support from the mother. If he is awarded child support, it is on average less money and he is far less likely to actually receive it. You can’t go to lunch with it like you could a girlfriend, but the Census has created a PDF showing these facts.

    But the system isn’t just stacked against men in who gets custody, who gets child support awarded (and how much) if they do get custody, and whether the order for child support is enforced if it is awarded. The system is also stacked against men in how it views the obligation of men and women to work to support their children. I’m guessing you haven’t been to lunch with many of the men on the receiving end of this system, so you probably aren’t aware of the fact that men can be put in prison for failing to earn enough money, or the fact that when they do pay child support the tax code is rigged against them. They have to pay income tax on the money the state forces them to earn and pay, and the IRS created a special rule that says that whichever parent spends more time with the child is the one who can claim the tax exemption for them. Since the system almost always awards custody to women, this coincidentally means the men get stuck forced to earn as much as the state decides they should make, hand the money over to the ex wife, pay taxes on the money, and can’t even claim the child as a dependent. IRL, this is what they would tell you if you went to lunch with them.

  19. dragnet says:

    @ Dalrock

    I really must salute you—your long, twilight struggle get J to engage in any degree of intellectual honesty is nearly as epic as your quest to shed light on the real disposition of marriage (and its adversaries) these days.

    My MRA sympathies notwithstanding, I’m farily turned off by the hostility of many commenters in the manosphere toward women in aggregate. I’m generally of the opinion that the hate should be directed at institutional feminism pushed by apex elites and that rank-and-file women are mostly just pawns…but then I read the stuff J writes and I wonder if those bitter, angry guys don’t actually have a legitimate point about women generally.

  20. Dalrock says:

    Arguing with J is like this, only not as funny:

  21. Doomed Harlot says:

    I have trouble wrapping my head around the MRA concern with alimony laws. The alimony laws have changed drastically over recent decades to make it much more difficult to get alimony than in the past. Basically, the laws now expect divorced women to work for a living and to become self-sufficient. Thank you, feminism! The women who get permanent alimony today are those who have been in long-term marriages and who have substantially lower earning power than their husbands — women like my mother, a 68-year-old housewife and occasional secretary who has been married for 40 years. (My parents are still married. I am just using them as an example.) Some men qualify for alimony — such as one of my clients, an elderly man with a disability who was financially dependent on his younger, healthier wife. Other than those long-term cases, alimony is generally a temporary matter until the receiving spouse gets back on her feet.

    I also have difficulty with viewing marriage as an “asset transfer from men to women.” Today, more than 25% of women (myself included) outearn their husbands. Historically, women often brought dowries into a marriage or worked alongside their husbands (such as in a farm scenario) to put food on the table. Even in traditional, 1950s-style marriage, the marriage is not so much an asset transfer as a division of labor. The woman takes care of things on the home front, thus freeing up the man to create wealth to feed the family. This is not a one-way street, as the man gets the benefit of support from the woman and full-time care for their children. (And,yes, I think men have an inherent interest in the well-being of their children. Concern for one’s progeny is an ancient concern among men. And, if it didn’t exist, we wouldn’t hear such a hue and cry from MRAs about losing custody or not being able to control whether a partner has an abortion.) And when a traditional marriage of this nature dissolves, the house or other assets acquired in the marriage belong as much to the wife as to the husband. When I look at my parents’ marriage, it is clear to me that the house and the pension belong equally to both; my father’s labor generated the cash but my mother’s labor allowed him to do so. Similarly, in my marriage, my husband’s support, both tangible and intangible (emotional support for example) directly contribute to my success in bringing in the income from which we both benefit; as such, my income and the assets we have bought with it are just as much his as they are mine.

    In terms of custody and child support, I would note that the vast majority of custody arrangements are agreed-upon by the parties. Yes, the woman usually winds up with more of the kids’ time, but she also winds up with more of the labor involved in caring for children. In those situations where there is a custody fight, I imagine there is indeed a bias in favor of women (and I think that’s terrible), but in many situations, custody is fairly awarded to the mother because she most often the primary caretaker already. As for child support, I imagine that the greater amount of child support men generally have to pay is likely a function of their greater earning capacity compared to their wives.

  22. Doomed Harlot says:

    That said, I have some sympathy for MRA critiques of no-fault divorce. The fact remains that a party who unilaterally decides upon a divorce will reduce the standard of living of both parties. I would certainly be upset if my husband decided to walk out — a decision which I cannot prevent and which would force us to put our house up for sale and for each of us to move into much smaller quarters, and have less discretionary income. Why should he have the right to make that decision for both of us?
    On the other hand, that is the risk one takes when deciding to marry. One chooses to pool one’s resources of money and labor with the other person, but does so knowing the risks of having the other party withdraw. I don’t know that this is so horrible compared to the risk of marriage in which no-fault is unavailable, in which one might find oneself tethered for life to someone who turns out to be terrible or even abusive (and yes, I know the latter can give rise to fault grounds for divorce, but then you have to publicly prove the abuse.) It is a policy question as to how what risks we, as a society, wish to build into marriage, and it seems that the public has overwhelmingly preferred the risks of a no-fault divorce over the alternative. I know I would prefer my husband to walk out and take 1/2 of the house I worked 12-15 hour days for years on end to buy than to be tied to me in a non-consensual relationship against his will.
    There is no guarantee against the risk that one’s spouse will walk out one day. I like to think that you can mitigate the risk by choosing one’s partner carefully and working hard to make the marriage seem continually appealing.

  23. J says:

    Thanks for weighing, DH. If you lived near me, we could have lunch IRL!

    I took a look at the study D cited. It interesting; you’d enjoy it. The conclusion that the authors, one male and one female, come to is that women file more often because they assume they will get custody and therefore child support. I wonder what would happen if custody were not part of the equation. I know that if I were faced with losing my kids I’d never file for divorce; the thought of not getting child support wouldn’t deter me. WIth the larger number of women who are capable of supporting themselves or who know that the ex will not pay/pay sporadically even if ordered, I doubt that “divorce theft” is much of a motive.

  24. Pingback: The plankton generation | Dalrock

  25. Pingback: Thoughts on the future of marriage | Dalrock

  26. Pingback: Why a woman’s age at time of marriage matters, and what this tells us about the apex fallacy | Dalrock

  27. Dalrock

    The small increase, numerically, is an enormous percentage because of the denominator is quite low. Divorces in japan for folks over 15 years married were all but nonexistent. There is something buried in that that’s worth unpacking, by way of comparison here. The link Im putting here talks about, duh, the independence the women necessarily develop while a husband is so steeped in corporate work for years. Compare that to here in the U.S. and the brainstorm is unmanageable at a glance.

    *Women here are bitching they want that same independence (as if….)
    *Women in Japan are obviously viewing independence as being about tasks, not emotional needs, does it mean they are less emotionally dependent there, and what does that say about our culture where she always ‘wants to talk’, and failure to do so is emotional abuse?
    *Women here would dump a man in no time in a work/home life situation like that in Japan, there the women are ENJOYING the arrangement eventually, so much that they divorce when it ends and they CAN get the ability to have ‘the talks’

    I could list dozens of things that do not fit my boxes. But the most important thing is that whatever reason for raising the issue about the wet leaves divorces in Japan, its totally and completely unrelated to anything about the UK or anywhere else making propaganda out of tiny bumps in divorce rates. Im not sure we can just look at it and set it aside as in the UK analysis. At the same time as I say its not analogous to the UK or other western countries, I am not saying that its even useful information for our topic(s) here because its so very different in motive and outcome. Like I said, it could use some slow unpacking searching for morsels of relevance.

    http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/japan/opinion/iwao.html

    [D: I misread your original comment. I thought you were saying we had a “wet leaves” revolution in the US. I don’t have any data regarding Japan either way, but given the baseless hype in the US and the UK, I am a bit skeptical.]

  28. Pingback: There is no baby boomer (or silent) generation divorce spike at retirement. | Dalrock

Please see the comment policy linked from the top menu.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s