Stronger Marriage

Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 1996

(Issued February 2002)

A report issued by the Commerce Department?s Census Bureau reports that nearly 9-in-10 people are expected to marry sometime in their lives, but about half of first marriages may end in divorce. The report is the Census Bureau's first comprehensive description of marriage and divorce in nearly 10 years and, unlike other data sources, provides estimates for men's and women's marital patterns through their lifetimes. It uses data from the 1996 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation. Highlights from the report are outlined below. The entire report can be accessed by clicking on the link below. (may take several minutes to download)

* In 1996, 54 percent of men and 60 percent of women age 15 and over had married only
* once.
* Marriages are most susceptible to divorce in the early years of marriage. After 5 years, approximately 10% of marriages are expected to end in divorce.
* First marriages, which end in divorce, last 7-8 years, on average. Among those who had remarried, the median number of years before they married again was about three. The median duration of second marriages that ended in divorce was about seven years. Most people who had ever divorced are currently married.
* In 1996, 8 percent of men and 10 percent of women 15 years old and over were currently divorced, although 20 percent of men and 22 percent of women had been divorced at least once.
* In 1996, about 13 percent of men and women had been married two times, while 3 percent of men and women had been married three or more times.
* About 52 percent of currently married couples had reached at least their 15th anniversary in 1996, and 5 percent of them had reached at least their golden anniversary (50 years).
* A higher percentage of men and women in recent birth cohorts have ever been divorced. Marriages which began later in the twentieth century did not last as long. Delays in marriage and a rapid increase in the likelihood of divorce were the common reason.
* 31% of recently married women live with their own children, ages 1-17.
* Recently separated and divorced women are more likely to be in poverty than men.
* College graduates are more likely to marry and less likely to separate.

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