Monday, August 8, 2011

Gay Marriage States Trend Towards Fewer Divorces

The running argument is that marriage equality destabilizes the institution of marriage.  But that argument continues to ring false when one compares divorce statistics from state to state.  In fact, if you look at the 2009 divorce statistics for the USA, you'll find that the marriage equality states see many fewer divorces when compared to marriage inequality states. Check out this quote:
Here’s the really surprising part: It’s the Bible belt, the swathe of religious ultra-conservatives that swings from West Virginia down through Dixie that has by far the highest proportion of divorce rates among the general population.

Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, for years has had the lowest number of divorces in the nation. In 2009, there were only 1.8 divorces per 1,000 population. Marriages also are legal in Washington, D.C., which closely trails Massachusetts with 2.1 divorces per 1,000 residents.

New York, the largest and most recent state to legalize marriage equality, has a divorce rate of 2.5 per 1,000. That ties the rate in Iowa, the sole non-Northeastern state to allow same-sex marriages. The other states with marriage equality also all have low divorce rates compared to the national median: Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island have legalized civil unions. They, too, experience relatively lower numbers of divorces. Nevada, which along with California, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin offer domestic partnerships, may prove the exception. It has the nation’s highest divorce rate, at 6.6 per 1,000 residents. But then, Nevada has been the nation’s quickie divorce state for over a century. (Remember the women in the movie "The Women" who were on their way to be "Renovated" from their husbands?)

Rounding out the top ten lists of divorce-crazy states are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine (the only state on the list in the Northeast), Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming. Besides Arkansas and Kentucky, states in the Deep South with rates higher than the Northeast include Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Does this mean that Nevada would become a low divorce state if it legalized marriage equality?  Probably not.  But these numbers do present a puzzling question.  Why don't gay marriage states flip into higher divorce states once gays and lesbians begin marrying there?  I thought that gay marriage destabilizes the institution of marriage?

One of the biggest reason for this divorce trend, according to this article?  Marrying young.  People in the Bible Belt are actively discouraged from premarital sex.  As a result, people are more likely to marry young.  Statistically speaking, marrying older reduces incidents of divorce.  This is partly due to one's ability to achieve higher levels of education.  In other words, it's easier to complete higher levels of education as a single person without children than the other way around.  One's level of education is a strong indicator of higher income, which ultimately alleviates one of the biggest stressors on a marriage (i.e., low income).

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