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D-I-V-O-R-C-E

The South has the highest rate of marriage breakups
  • February 13 2012

Maybe there’s a reason so many country songs are about broken marriages. Men and women in the South have a higher rate of divorce than in other regions of the country. By contrast, men and women in the Northeast had the lowest rates of divorce.

According to Marital Events of Americans, a study that looked at marriage, divorce and widowhood in America during 2009, the national divorce rate was 9.2 per 1,000 for men and 9.7 per 1,000 for women. But in the South, those figures were 10.2 for men and 11.1 for women, while in the Northeast they were 7.2 for men and 7.5 for women.

"Divorce rates tend to be higher in the South because marriage rates are also higher in the South," says Diana Elliott, a family demographer at the Census Bureau. "In contrast, in the Northeast, first marriages tend to be delayed and the marriage rates are lower, meaning there are also fewer divorces."

In the analysis, 14 states had divorce rates for men that were significantly above the U.S. average, ranging. Higher than average divorce rates for men occurred mostly in Southern states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. In contrast, nine states had divorce rates for men significantly below the U.S. average, ranging from 6.1 to 8.5. Of these states five were in the Northeast: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

For women, 14 states had divorce rates for women above the U.S. average, nine of which were in the South: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Meanwhile, 10 states had divorce rates for women below the U.S. average, four from the Northeast: Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Findings also show:

  • Children living with a parent who divorced in 2009 were more likely to live in a household headed by their mother (75 percent) than in a household headed by their father (25 percent). Additionally, children living with a parent who divorced in 2009 were more likely to be in a household below the poverty level (28 percent) compared to other children (19 percent), and they were more likely to live in a rented home (53 percent) compared to other children (36 percent).
  • The economic well-being of those who experienced a recent marital event differed. Women who divorced in the past 12 months were more likely to receive public assistance than recently divorced men (23 percent and 15 percent). Women who divorced in the past 12 months reported less household income than recently divorced men. For example, 27 percent of women who divorced in the past 12 months had less than $25,000 in annual household income compared to 17 percent of recently divorced men. Similarly, women who divorced in the past 12 months were more likely than recently divorced men to be in poverty (22 percent compared to 11 percent).
  • Women who divorced in the past 12 months were more likely to be living in a multigenerational household—11 per percent of such women, compared to 5 percent of men.

 

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