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Consequences of Same-Sex Marriage: Lowest Divorce Rate Since WWII

Jim Burroway

September 4th, 2009

Massachusetts was the first state in the union to grant full marriage rights to same-sex couples. They’ve been at it now for five years, and what do we have to show for it?

According to the most recent data from the National Center For Vital Statistics, Massachusetts retains the national title as the lowest divorce rate state, and the MA divorce rate is about where the US divorce rate was in 1940, prior to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor that triggered the US entrance into World War Two.

Provisional data from 2008 indicates that the Massachusetts divorce rate has dropped from 2.3 per thousand in 2007 down to about 2.0 per thousand for 2008. What does that mean ? To get a sense of perspective consider that the last time the US national divorce rate was 2.0 per thousand (people) was 1940. You read that correctly. The Massachusetts divorce rate is now at about where the US divorce rate was the year before the United States entered World War Two.

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Trovore
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

Bubu BUT! HomoSEXual “marriage” will destroy traditional normal God-inspired pure as the wind driven snow holy heterosexuals who never sinned before in their lives – marriages’! Everyone knows that! So this is impossible.

Alan
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

It seems fairly obvious that the argument that “gay marriage will destroy heterosexual marriage” is false.

I still am wondering about why the divorce rate in MA is so low; it’s obvious that gay marriage isn’t increasing it but I wonder then what’s causing it to decrease.

sammyseattle
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

It is also interesting to note that Massachusetts has the highest percentage of college graduates (outside of DC).

Orlando
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

Of course. In Massachusetts the marriage figures dropped. No wonder the divorce rates dropped too.

Eddie89
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

Massachusetts?

Didn’t that whole State fall into the Atlantic ocean five years ago, after Yahweh smote it with fire and brimstone, after they started to allow gays and lesbians the right to a civil marriage?

What? The State is STILL there?!

And not only is it in the same physical condition as it was five years ago, it’s actually lowered it’s rate of divorce?

Amazing!

I suppose the husband and I will have to book a trip to P-town next summer for Family Week!

Richard Wood
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

Orlando, you hit the target, and hence you are ignored by all the regulars here (they probably didn’t even check the link provided, which provides all the information needed to see how off the mark Jim Burroway’s claim is).

Another typical BoxTurtle post–cherry pick the statistic you like and crow about how it shows homosexual marriage to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, and blithely pass over information that completely undoes the claim linked to the cherry-picked statistic.

MA divorce rates are low b/c MA marriage rates are very low–in the stats provided, fewer than 10 states have marriage rates lower than MA’s. If anything reasonable can be gleaned from these stats, it sure ain’t what Jim Burroway claims. In fact, there’s more here to bolster the argument that states that pass homosexual marriage laws are states where marriage is already dying anyway, and homosexual marriage certainly isn’t doing anything to contribute to reversing that trajectory.

Jim Burroway
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

It’s too bad Richard Wood apparently didn’t check out the link either. Yes, it does provide most (but not all) of the information we need. But if he had looked closely, he might have found that the conclusions aren’t quite as tidy as he says they are.

First, unlike Bruce Wilson, I prefer to stick with the 2007 numbers rather than the 2008 numbers, since the latter are provisional.

Second, I’m not fond of how the CDC calculates marriage rates. They count the number of marriages taking place and divide it by the total population. A more accurate measure would be to take the number of marriages and divide it by the total adult single population. This would take into account the number of partners available to be married. The way the CDC calculates it, we cannot know whether there is a large or small pool of eligible people available for marriage in any given state, and those demographic variables can affect the marriage rate.

But it’s true that by this crude measure, Massachusetts’ crude marriage rate, at 5.9 per 1,000 total population, is lower than average. Those states which have lower marriage rates than MA’s include:

Connecticut: 5.6
Delaware: 5.7
Michigan: 5.7
Minnesota: 5.8
Mississippi: 5.4
New Jersey: 5.4
New Mexico: 5.7
Pennsylvania: 5.7
Wisconsin: 5.7

When one looks at these states it’s hard to see how marriage laws correlate to marriage rates. Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and Wisconsin already have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, and yet their marriage rates are lower than Massachusetts’.

On the other end, Vermont, the first state in the nation to have civil unions and a state that provided marriage equality via the legislature, has a fairly robust marriage rate of 8.6 per 1000 population. In fact, only eight states have higher marriage rates, although two of them, Nevada and Hawaii, are artificially elevated because they market themselves as favored wedding destinations for couples from other states.

But I think the more interesting way to look at the marriage and divorce rates is this: Of those who are married, how stable are their marriages? I mean, if we really want to promote marriage, we don’t want people rushing into the institution willy-nilly only to divorce when things fall apart, do we?

If we could arrive at the number of divorces per 1,000 married couples, that would give us the answer. Unfortunately, that data is next to impossible to come by, at least as far as I can find. So I tried the next best thing. I took the crude divorce rate and divided that into the crude marriage rate, giving a ratio of the number of marriages per divorce. And this is very interesting.

Throwing out Nevada and Hawaii for the reasons I just gave (people aren’t interested in vacation divorces like they are vacation weddings), Massachusetts marriages appear to be the fourth most stable by this measure, at 2.57 marriages per divorce. Only Iowa (2.58), South Carolina (2.63) and Utah (2.64) do better.

So even when accounting for Massachusetts’ lower crude marriage rate, their divorce rate is lower still. Which means that one possible cause of Massachusetts’ low crude marriage rate may be that there are fewer divorced individuals available to remarry. Unfortunately, I don’t have the data to show whether there’s any merit to that speculation or not.

By the way, Vermont is in 8th place at 2.39 marriages per divorce.

But of the bottom ten, (MS,1.20; NM,1.33; OK,1.40; WV,1.43; DE,1.54; AZ,1.59; CO,1.59; WA,1.60; MI,1.68; and KY,1.68), six of them have constitutional amendments “protecting” their fragile marriages from homosexuals. This includes Mississippi, where couples divorce almost as often as they marry.

grantdale
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

Richard (again failing to understand) Wood and, hence, Orlando.

Those are raw figures for NEWLY created marriages and NEWLY enacted divorces. They say nothing per se about the “death” of marriage. For that you need to look elsewhere. And good luck with that.

(You did notice the Nevada figures, and think for one second? Nope, obviously not.)

Leaving aside Nevada with it’s marriage tourism, rates of newly created marriages largely reflect the proportion of the population available to marry. This itself reflects 1) any demographic bulge (ie a passing cohort of young people getting married for the first time) and 2) prior divorce rates.

Periods of unusually high marriage rates have largely been caused by reason 1) eg demobbing after WWII, and a further jump as the children of those couples went on to marry in the 1960′s. (Unfortunately… they were also later reflected in a rise in divorces some years down the track.)

Marriage is not dead in Massachusetts. However the population is somewhat skewed vs the US average, and the divorce rate has traditionally been low in an case. Hence, a relatively smaller pool that could go out get married in the first place.

Personally, I’d rather have a lower per capita rate of marriage because marriages are more stable — Massachusetts — than a higher rate that also reflects instability and divorce. eg name any Southern State, and ponder the revolving door of divorce and remarriage.

(You may want to work out the ratios of divorce to marriage for all the States to see how the good people of the Commonwealth honour their marriages compared to others, but I fear that will do your head in.)

But at least one thing seems perfectly clear: permitting gay couples to marry has not caused the death of marriage in Massachusetts. It appears to make no difference at all, or is positive, contrary to claims made by the anti-gay shills.

Burr
September 5th, 2009 | LINK

That’s great and all, but really these statistics should not matter one lick. It’s not MY responsibility that everyone ELSE gets and stays married. How does treating ME like garbage help anyone ELSE out? That’s just totally demented.

Alan
September 5th, 2009 | LINK

I agree with Burr, there’s really no logical reason to think that gay marriage will affect heterosexual marriage. There’s no point in arguing statistics when there isn’t even any apparent causation.

And anyway, we don’t favor gay marriage because it lowers the divorce rate, we favor it because it’s the right thing to do.

Eddie89
September 5th, 2009 | LINK

It’s not called “gay marriage”!

It’s the SAME civil marriage certificate as a straight couple getting married!

It’s called “Marriage Equality“!

And yes, for some of us gays and lesbians, being able to legally marry the person we love IS the best thing since sliced bread!

Richard Wood
September 5th, 2009 | LINK

More typical Jim Burroway. He (correctly) notes that a causal relationship between state marriage law and marriage rates cannot be inferred from the statistics. (Nor did I make any such a claim–I said it seems clear that marriage rates were *already* low in MA before homosexuals began marrying, which likely says something about the culture of marriage there). But he wants homosexual marriage to be causing the slight decline in the divorce rate in MA, though there is no more of a case for that claim than for the first claim.

How does Jim Burroway distinguish between these two? Not on intellectual grounds, of course. Rather, he does it based on his own likes and dislikes. He happens to desperately want one of them to be true, and so for him, and doubtless for his fan base here, it is true.

Jim Burroway
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

More typical Richard Wood. He’s either being obtuse, or he simply fails to grasp the point of the entire post. Perhaps he should read the entire post again, begininng with the title, “Consequences of Same-Sex Marriage”

Consequences? If I had actually wanted to argue that marriage equality in Massachusetts had anything to do with the divorce rate there, why would I have chosen a word that suggests something bad happened? Why didn’t I use the word “benefits” instead of “Consequences”?

The answer is simple: It’s a riff on the chicken-little scare tactics of marriage equality opponents — apparently opponents like Wood, who only sees what he wants to see, while accusing others of the same sin he commits. He claims that there’s a cause-and-effect relationship in MA between low marriage rate and low divorce rate, as well as low marriage rate and the lack of marriage discrimination.

But he continues to ignore that MA marriages are at least much more stable than much of the rest of the country. And he ignores the LOWER marriage rate in Mississippi and much HIGHER divorce rate there, in a state that is the land of bedrock social conservative values and which has sought to protect their rare and non-lifelong marriages against the dastardly homosexuals.

If one is going to argue that gays marrying will somehow have an effect on straight couples’ behavior — and I have always ridiculed these arguments, including here in this post — then they’re either going to have to start looking at the whole data and not picking and choosing only what they want to see, or they’re going to have to be consistent and take the equally ridiculous argument that marrying gays somehow lowered the divorce rate in MA.

But no, instead they will accuse me of doing what they’re doing: picking and choosing and ignoring the rest. That’s quite a pretty beam you have in your eye there.

Richard Wood
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Jim Burroway doesn’t get it, and probably never will.

Constantly talking about what he thinks I’m doing, and let the evidence of what I have actually written be swept into the dustbin. Now apparently I want to defend divorce rates in Mississippi, even though I haven’t said a single word about that.

Marriage rates are lower EVERYWHERE, and divorce rates are higher EVERYWHERE, than they were 40 years ago, Mr. Burroway. That’s a fact I’m very interested in. How about you?

Do you know what all the research indicates is the reason for those phenomena? The weakening of the institution, which has been a central political issue for the cultural left since the 1960s. Let’s get no-fault divorce, let’s encourage people to devote themselves to their jobs and to their own materialist desires to own a lot of stuff and stay 20 years old forever rather than to their spouses and children, let’s turn marriage into some watered-down version of a friendship pact instead of seeing it as a sacred institution that must be preserved.

Those are the facts that serve as the backdrop for everything you and your compatriots write here. You can invent claims you think I’m making all you like; the real world has a funny way of sticking its head up among all the obfuscation and misdirection you folks try.

MA, like almost all the other states that have okayed homosexual friendship pacts/marriages, has been experiencing massive deterioration of the marital institution for a few decades now, and low marriage rates are only one indicator of this. The fact that states decide to do something practically guaranteed to weaken hat instituion some more is only evidence of the existing weakened state–legislators who themselves look forward to no-fault divorcing someday (or have already done so, maybe a few times) are the voice of the people in those states, and they do their destructive bidding.

I have little doubt that marriage (and the biological mother/father family) will disappear altogether within another century, and the homosexual friendship pact activists have only some of the blame to bear. The heterosexuals who started the destruction back in the 1960s are even more responsible, and the world you crow about as an achievement (*comparatively* low divorce rates in a state where fewer people can conceivably divorce anyway b/c they no longer marry in the first place) is in fact a ship on its way to the bottom of the sea. As anyone who was paying attention would have already noticed.

Jim Burroway and his Box Turtlers are sure doing their part to sink it. How about you?

Richard Wood
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Btw, if Jim Burroway knew the first thing about demographics, he wouldn’t wonder so much about why Mississippi’s marriage rate is low and its divorce rate is high. The state is close to 40% black, and blacks marry far less frequently and divorce more frequently than any other ethnic population in the US. Mr. Burroway wants to read statistical information through his ‘one issue only’ lens, but reality is more complicated than Mr. Burroway would prefer.

We might add a note on why black marriages are so relatively rare and unstable. In fact, post-Civil War, they weren’t any less stable than white marriages, until the cultural revolution of the 1960s I just alluded to above. The corrosive effects had on the family by this cultural moment were felt by all families, but especially by those at the bottom of the economic ladder, which is clearly where blacks were then. Feminism and the ‘I-me-mine’ culture of the 1960s have helped to keep black poverty rates up by encouraging blacks (and esp. black women) to jump into the ‘who needs marriage?’ culture with the same avidity whites did.

Timothy Kincaid
September 8th, 2009 | LINK

Richard said “Nor did I make any such a claim–I said it seems clear that marriage rates were *already* low in MA before homosexuals began marrying, which likely says something about the culture of marriage there”

I wonder just what that might be? Do Massachusans have disregard for marriage? Are they just living life without the benefit or sanctity of the institution?

Well… it’s hard to know, exactly. And it would take quite some work to look at all of the factors and come up with a complete picture. But there are, perhaps, some hints we might look at.

For example, using 2006 statistics (pdf) we find that only six states have a lower rate of births to unwed mothers (CO, ID, MN, NH, ND, UT). There may be reasons for this other than a respect for marriage and a desire to make sure that children are born within such confines, but it certainly does not say something negative about the “culture of marriage” there.

Timothy Kincaid
September 8th, 2009 | LINK

Richard said

Do you know what all the research indicates is the reason for those phenomena? The weakening of the institution, which has been a central political issue for the cultural left since the 1960s. Let’s get no-fault divorce, let’s encourage people to devote themselves to their jobs and to their own materialist desires to own a lot of stuff and stay 20 years old forever rather than to their spouses and children, let’s turn marriage into some watered-down version of a friendship pact instead of seeing it as a sacred institution that must be preserved.

MA, like almost all the other states that have okayed homosexual friendship pacts/marriages, has been experiencing massive deterioration of the marital institution for a few decades now, and low marriage rates are only one indicator of this.

Geez, if it’s no-fault divorce to blame, then I guess the divorce rate actually is the right measure by which we look to see if Massachusetts has experienced massive deterioration of the marital institution. Oh lookie, actually Massachusetts is the best in the nation.

Ergo, presto, everyone allow marriage equality and bingo, you have fewer divorces.

Of course, I’m being sarcastic. Changing marriage law won’t change the culture.

And it is MA’s culture about marriage that gives such stability to marriages there.

It is the recognition of what marriage is and what it means that causes Massachusans to value that institution so much that they choose to delay marriage until they have the right person, causes them to avoid bringing children into the world without a stable family, and causes them to want to hold that standard out to all of their citizens, gay or straight.

If you want to see a culture that has no real respect for marriage, look for one in which teenage pregnancy leads to automatic marriage, where such coupling results in poverty and children brought up by children, which naturally leads to high divorce rates, and ultimately the dissolution of the family structure. And we all know where to find those states.

Timothy Kincaid
September 8th, 2009 | LINK

Richard Wood
September 6th, 2009

wow.

just wow.

But it appears that the “it’s them Negras thets a causin’ all the problems” mindset doesn’t exactly explain all of differences.

I haven’t yet identified marriages and divorces by race by state, but I’ll turn again to unwed births. And there we see something interesting.

Yes, there is a much higher rate of black children born out of wedlock – and that is a serious issue that has many many causes and which our society should address. But within the black community, such rates vary wildly per state.

For example, down in Mississippi where the “blacks marry far less frequently and divorce more frequently”, the rate of out-of-wedlock black childbirth is 79.1% while in Massachusetts it is 60.1%. (Whites are 28.4% and 23.5%, respectively).

So we can’t just dismiss the results we don’t like by pointing to African Americans. Well, not if we “know the first thing about demographics”, we can’t. It seems that those who are in that liberal immoral bastion of pro-gay evilness known as Massachusetts respect marriage as the family structure they want to raise kids in than do those in the Bible Belt, regardless of whether they are black or white.

The truth is that the subject is complicated. But if there is anything that can be gleaned from all this, it’s that in Massachusetts, there seems to be a greater respect for marriage and what it means than there is in states that have demonstrated a greater anti-gay bias.

Jim Burroway
September 8th, 2009 | LINK

Wow. Wow. Wow. And more wow.

Richard Wood pulls the race card. So now that he’s pulled it, let’s just see how ignorant he really is concerning demographics. It turns out that he is very deeply guilty of the very sin he accuses me.

So what about demographics, which he thinks I don’t know the first thing about and wants to lecture me on?

Mississippi is actually 36% African-American. He thinks that has something to do with that state’s very low marriage rate of 5.4 per 1000 population, compared to Massachusetts’ 5.9, which is only about 8% African-American. And so he blames it on blacks’ bad marrying and divorcing habits.

But let’s at another state with a very large AFrican-American population. South Carolina is 30% African-American, but their marriage rate is 7.9 per 1,000.

So Richard, you don’t get to blame it on blacks. But you did get to reveal not only your own ignorance, but the depth of your biases.

There’s a reason we have you on moderation, but we just had to let this one go out for everyone to see. But I think we’ve all seen enough of what you’re all about.

Bye now.

Richard W. Fitch
September 8th, 2009 | LINK

Is that why my comments are being delayed??? Please do not confuse “Richard W. Fitch” with “Richard Wood”. We are not even in the same universe.

Emily K
September 8th, 2009 | LINK

Wow, Jim and Tim. I don’t feel so much angry about him anymore. I feel like I’m witnessing the implosion of a crazy, crazy man.

As if his name didn’t give him away as an anti-gay person (“Richard Wood?” as in, “Dickwood?” yah know, cuz teh gheys are obsessed with penile erections and his screenname is supposed to mock this, I guess.) Then we get the circle-talk about “this statistic means this – oh wait no, THAT statistic really means THIS instead,” whenever he’s proven wrong.

Now we get talks about how marriage is also being ruined by NEGROES!! Oh, NOEZ!! OH, and don’t forget FEMINISM. all those vagina-possessing human beings are just crazy to think they’re worthy of the same respect a male gets.

And when it all fails, blame the 60′s. Because really, that’s all the 60′s were, just one big orgy of protests, drugs, counter-culture, and free sex. And every act being carried out was so effective that nobody could recover from it. Please. My parents were barely coming of age during that time and even I know what a ridiculous caricature that is to project onto that period of time. Lest we forget that “Gay is Good” and “Brown v. Board of Ed.” happened in the 50′s, feminism as a movement has roots in the turn of the century (what happened in the 60′s is called the Second Wave), and “Roe v. Wade” didn’t happen til the 70′s. But they did all those drugs and all those people were protesting and having orgies, destroying the “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” ideals of the era! So that must be it, right??

You know, I was kinda wondering what his thoughts were going to be on us dirty K!kes next.

Jim Burroway
September 8th, 2009 | LINK

Richard W. Fitch,

No your comments weren’t being delayed because of that. And unfortunately, yours weren’t the only ones being delayed. I still don’t know what that was happening.

I just upgraded the blogging software (WordPress) and some associated plug-ins. Hopefully your comments and others’ won’t be misdirected to the Spam filter. But we’re still keeping a close eye out on that.

grantdale
September 8th, 2009 | LINK

Currently living as divorced or separated, Males 30 to 74 years *

Wyoming 19.2%
Nevada 18.8%
Oklahoma 18.3%
Montana 18.2%
Arkansas 18.0%
Kentucky 17.8%
Tennessee 17.8%
Oregon 17.7%
Florida 17.4%
Mississippi 17.4%
Alaska 17.4%
Arizona 17.2%
Alabama 17.2%
New Mexico 17.2%
Missouri 17.1%
Louisiana 17.0%
Washington 16.8%
Vermont 16.8%
Maine 16.7%
Indiana 16.7%
West Virginia 16.5%
Ohio 16.4%
Georgia 16.3%
South Carolina 16.2%
Idaho 16.1%
Colorado 15.8%
Texas 15.7%
North Carolina 15.7%
Kansas 15.3%
Michigan 15.3%
Rhode Island 15.2%
New Hampshire 15.1%
Delaware 14.9%
Maryland 14.6%
Iowa 14.6%
Virginia 14.5%
South Dakota 14.4%
Wisconsin 14.1%
Nebraska 14.1%
Pennsylvania 13.9%
California 13.8%
Utah 13.5%
Illinois 13.3%
Minnesota 13.2%
Connecticut 13.0%
North Dakota 13.0%
Hawaii 12.9%
New York 12.9%
Massachusetts 12.6%
New Jersey 11.3%

Yep, them crazy people of Massachusetts sure hate that institution of marriage. Obviously.

(The figures for “ever divorced” are also of interest, except to someone pushing a barrow of manure about marriage. The figures above need to be read alongside figures for the revolving door of second+ marriages, something that goes hand-in-hand with a higher divorce rate.)

One thing seems reasonable to take away: the culture of marriage in Massachusetts is one that comparatively:

1) encourages people NOT to rush into marriage. Wait. See something of life first. Get your study out of the way, and career on the way. Co-habitat first, if you wish. Bay Staters marry later.

2) when, and if, you do get married: have RESPECT for the VOWS you make. Bay Staters divorce less.

And you know what… apparently if YOU commit to YOUR marriage, rather than to some airy-fairy belief about the ‘institution’ of marriage and what is demanded of (other) people… the well-being of the institution will take care of itself.

What’s not to like about that?

*2005-2007 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates (U.S. Census Bureau)

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