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The myth of the 50% divorce rate

People who worry about divorce in the United States often tell you that the divorce rate is 50%. They also say that it’s going up. Clearly, their interpretation of the data tells them that most marriages end in divorce and that we’re always getting closer to a point where all marriages will end in divorce. 

If this is surprising to you, don’t worry: None of it is true. It just gets repeated so often that there are a lot of people out there who believe it. 

What is the divorce rate in the United States really doing?

The truth is that the divorce rate keeps going down. This has been happening for decades. Projections about a 50% divorce rate were inaccurate when they came out and are even more so now. 

There are numerous reasons for the falling rate. One is that the age at which people get married keeps going up. We know that getting married too young often leads to divorce, so people who wait until their late 20s tend to have more stable marriages. 

Another part of the equation is that Americans don’t always feel like they need to get married. More and more people fall into the “never married” category, despite having serious relationships. They still care about their partners. They just don’t think they need to sign a legal contract in order to show it. 

Understanding the causes of divorce moving forward

With the rate dropping, it’s more important than ever to understand why divorce still happens and what options you have if it happens to you. For unmarried couples, it’s also important to consider things like child custody rights, which may apply if you break up, even if you were never married.