Divorce – a conclusion

When data are suspect due to collection methods and lack of completeness, it is unwise to draw the conclusions you’d like. This is particularly so when other studies indicate the opposite of what common sense dictates. So it deserves closer scrutiny.

For a start:

The U.S. Census BureauExternal Web Site Icon is another Federal source of marriage and divorce statistics. Census data are survey-based rather than records-based and cover many aspects of marriage and divorce patterns in the United States.

… which means one needs to be circumspect on anything coming from there.

Then there is this:

Part of the reason there is no hard and fast agreement on the overall divorce rate may be due to the fact that there has been no exact data to study. The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics has not collected any divorce data since 1996. Since then, most divorce statistics have been based on different data collection systems like surveys, and those methods can vary widely from state to state.

Those conclusions and the fact that only 44 states returned results, which excludes the most populous California and with good reason – the 75% overall divorce rate [see previous post], makes the claim about the blue states a bit ludicrous. Moreover, liberals, humanists and atheists keep referring to results by state, without analysing the factors at play in the state. They talk of “the bible belt” and yet there are socio-economic factors at play there, quite aside from religion.

One non-Christian site, which was highlighting higher divorce rates in the bible belt concluded:

One reason for the higher divorce rates in the Bible Belt may be the lower percentage of Roman Catholics in the South. Their denomination does not recognize divorce. Other reasons could be related more to culture than religion:

bullet Couples in the South enter their first marriages at a younger age.
bullet Family incomes in the South are lower.
bullet Educational attainment is lower in the South: One in three Massachusetts residents have completed college. while only 23% of Texans have.

By the way, it ignored the states outside the belt where there was a significant Christian population and where the rates were low, even on the state by state raw data. The raw stats themselves on divorce in any single year are flawed in that the percentage marrying in any one year are not necessarily the ones who are divorcing and this is the humanist argument – that these might well be 10, 20 year marriages which are finally ending.

The Barna Group found:

Those who consider themselves liberal have higher divorce rates than conservatives. Among liberals, the divorce rate is 37 percent. Among conservatives, it is only 28 percent.

The Barna Group said:

Thirty percent of atheists and agnostics had been married and subsequently divorced. However, the three-point difference from the national average was within the range of sampling error, suggesting that their likelihood of experiencing a dissolved marriage is the same as that of the population at-large. A representative from Barna also pointed out the atheists and agnostics have lower rates of marriage and a higher likelihood of cohabitation, a combination of behaviors that distort comparisons with other segments.

The Pew Forum said:

37% of atheists never marry

Of those who do, how many are gay and consider they are married?

The NSFG is on safer ground [see pdfs for research methods and coverage]:

The National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), conducted by NCHS, collected detailed data on cohabitation, marriage, divorce and remarriage. These data were published in Series 23, Number 22, “Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the United States” and in Series 23, Number 28, “Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States: A Statistical Portrait Based on Cycle 6 (2002) of the National Survey of Family Growth” Adobe PDF file [PDF – 805 KB].

Some conclusions:

Among the findings in the report: unmarried cohabitations overall are less stable than marriages. The probability of a first marriage ending in separation or divorce within 5 years is 20 percent, but the probability of a premarital cohabitation breaking up within 5 years is 49 percent. After 10 years, the probability of a first marriage ending is 33 percent, compared with 62 percent for cohabitations.

The study suggests that both cohabitations and marriages tend to last longer under certain conditions, such as: a woman’s age at the time cohabitation or marriage began; whether she was raised throughout childhood in an intact 2-parent family; whether religion plays an important role in her life; and whether she had a higher family income or lived in a community with high median family income, low male unemployment, and low poverty.

The report also shows that marriages that end do not always end in divorce; many end in separation and do not go through the divorce process. Separated white women are much more likely (91 percent) to divorce after 3 years, compared with separated Hispanic women (77 percent) and separated black women (67 percent).

Meanwhile, the probability of remarriage among divorced women was 54 percent in 5 years–58 percent for white women, 44 percent for Hispanic women, and 32 percent for black women. However, there was also a strong probability that 2nd marriages will end in separation or divorce (23 percent after 5 years and 39 percent after 10 years).

The likelihood that divorced women will remarry has been declining since the 1950’s, when women who divorced had a 65 percent chance of remarrying. Data for 1995 show that women who divorced in the 1980’s only had a 50 percent chance of remarrying.

Here are some excerpts from the NCBI NIH [Gov] reports:

This is far more logical too:

IOWA CITY, June 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A University of Iowa study has found that women who first engage in sex as young teens are more likely to divorce.

The NCBI conclusions also reinforce what common sense would dictate:

Recent studies based on longitudinal data have found that getting married (and staying married to the same person) is associated with better mental health outcomes. Horwitz et al. (1996), Marks and Lambert (1998), and Simon (2002) present evidence of improvements in emotional well-being following marriage, and declines following the end of a union.

Marks and Lambert (1998) report that marital gain affects men and women in the same way, but marital loss is generally more depressing for women. Analyses that control for the selection of the psychologically healthy into marriage, and also include a wider range of measures of mental well-being, find that although there are differences by sex in the types of emotional responses to marital transitions, the psychological benefits associated with marriage apply equally to men and women (Horwitz et al. 1996; Simon 2002).

One of the strongest, most consistent benefits of marriage is better physical health and its consequence, longer life. Married people are less likely than unmarried people to suffer from long-term illness or disability (Murphy et al. 1997), and they have better survival rates for some illnesses (Goodwin et al. 1987).

They have fewer physical problems and a lower risk of death from various causes, especially those with a behavioral component; the health benefits are generally larger for men (Ross et al. 1990). A longitudinal analysis based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a large national sample, documents a significantly lower mortality rate for married individuals (Lillard and Waite 1995).

Similarly, although there are exceptions and the matter remains controversial (Sloan et al. 1999), a growing body of research documents an association between religious involvement and better outcomes on a variety of physical health measures, including problems related to heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer, gastrointestinal disease, as well as overall health status and life expectancy. This research also points to differences by religious affiliation, with members of stricter denominations displaying an advantage (Levin 1994).

Yet the conclusion of a generally positive effect of religious involvement on physical health and longevity also emerges from a new generation of studies that have addressed many of these methodological problems (Ellison and Levin 1998). In one of the most rigorous analyses to date, Hummer et al. (1999) use longitudinal data from a nationwide survey, the 1987 Cancer Risk Factor Supplement–Epidemiology Study, linked to the Multiple Cause of Death file.

Their results show that the gap in life expectancy at age 20 between those who attend religious services more than once a week and those who never attend is more than seven years—comparable to the male–female and white–black differentials in the United States.

Additional multivariate analyses of these data reveal a strong association between religious participation and the risk of death, holding constant socioeconomic and demographic variables, as well as initial health status. Other recent longitudinal studies also report a protective effect of religious involvement against disability among the elderly (Idler and Kasl 1992), as well as a positive influence on self-rated health (Musick 1996) and longevity (Strawbridge et al. 1997).

So, from all that, two things are clear:

1. One can’t leap on an incomplete set of state by state divorce figures in any one year, without analysis of who was getting divorced and how it stacks up against all the other socio-economic, racial and gender factors and suddenly conclude things about liberals, gays and atheists from that – in fact, state by state figures are well high useless for that prupose;

2. One can, on the other hand, conclude things from the range of studies and surveys in their totality – many mentioned above. And in their totality, the results are as sane people or those without a barrow to push would also conclude.

Now, those were conclusions from those who conduct surveys and compile stats and I’m perfectly happy to stand on the above. However, I do have my ideas [might surprise you] and this is how it seems to me, re religiosity:

There seems to be evidence that when two people [a married couple but not necessarily] are both involved in some ongoing project, e.g. both are wildlife savers or both are Christian – in other words, both are working together and tuned into one another [see the series of posts on feminism at my place over seven days last week] and working on a sustainable project [not political office, for example], then the chances of them staying together are far higher.

So this comes down, inevitably, to the virtuousness of that project as well as to the similarity of the two people. Whilst age is not critical in all cases, it can be in some, for example, when a young golddigger marries an older sugardaddy – there’ve been many high-profile instances of that.

To me, this is far more critical a factor than what the religion was, except in certain cases where the religion itself is at fault – e.g. the way Islam oppresses women and suppresses divorce. There also seems a sort of religious Stockholm syndrome going on there. The happiness reported by many Muslim women also seems to come down to the tolerance in the home, that they’re not as religious as the hardliners and so on.

In other posts, I’ve drawn attention to the mega-churches, tele-evangelists and the happy-clapping gospellers, with the speaking in tongues, falling down in coma etc. These are far more indicative of the other side than of anything truly Christian. In fact it’s redolent of voodoo and relies on spectacle and mass meetings, rather than quiet reading and reflection, which is far more the tradition of Christianity.

Ditto with the hardliner fundamentalists in high places who just happen also to be members of the Skull and Bones – that, to me, is highly suspect.

On marriage and divorce itself, I’d say, in the end, that it really comes down to the presence of love and common interests, more than any other factor. Even left-liberals are capable of that though true Christian commitment is a guarantee of it.

Statistically though, the percentage of true Christian couples is going to be in the region of 2-20% of the total community in the U.S. and at the lower end of that in the UK, a distinctly non-spiritual people.

Lord Mancroft wrote, in Bees in Some Bonnets [1979]:

Cricket – a game which the English, not being a spiritual people, have invented in order to give themselves some conception of eternity.

4 comments for “Divorce – a conclusion

  1. Voice of Reason
    August 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    James – I suspect that you wrote this after some of my comments. I believe that the key for the ‘bad’ social trends in the Bible Belt states is lack of education. This is actually made worse by many of the actively anti-education movements within the Evangelical community.

  2. August 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    You’re probably aware that in October, 2003, the Southern Baptists withdrew from the Baptist church worldwide, citing liberalism which doesn’t actually stand up. While it stands up in much of the U.S. evangelical movement, it doesn’t worldwide:


    To longtime observers of the 25 year fundamentalist makeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, the departure from the BWA comes as no surprise. Southern Baptists’ fundamentalist leaders have long been marching the SBC out the door of Baptist life and onto the threshold of their own little kingdom. Core Baptist principles are systematically being discarded in place of policies designed to shore up the new fundamentalist order. The Priesthood of all Believers has been dismantled and replaced with strict pastoral authority. Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State have been jettisoned in favor of the myth of America as a Christian nation. The Authority of Scripture has been buried under layers of creedalism, of which the frosting on the cake is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Faith in Christ alone now plays second fiddle to homage to that same BF&M 2000. Local Church Autonomy has been rejected in favor of Roman Catholic-like, hierarchical conformity.

    It’s exactly what I said in the post about them – it’s voodoo Christianity with a priestly caste, very close to how the other side operates. This is the so-called “bible belt” – working for the same team as Obama in exactly the same way the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour are working for the same team over here.

    Over there, the CFR permeates both major parties and pretty well influences who becomes president.

    The reason it was obvious that this was a beat-up was that it’s not how Christian communities in other denominations generally operate. It just doesn’t happen like this. Though I’m not a churchgoer at this time, I meet about a dozen people weekly who are and they are far more what one conceptualizes about Christians. To them, something like the voodoo evangelicals over there are some sort of parody, masquerading as Christians.

    So this does not become a tome, I’ll try to wind it up with the next comment – It was on Breivik and Christianity:


    The problem, however, with Christian fundamentalism, is the fact that it is not Christian. If, by the grace of God, you live by Jesus’ teachings, you do not murder another human being, period, regardless of their ideology. Killing may be fundamental in other religions and ideologies, but certainly not in the Christian faith! In many ideologies, the greater the degree of fundamentalism the greater danger of violence it poses on society. In Christianity, the more conservative the theology the less likelihood there is of violence.

    Likewise, when people want to stamp Christians out, the faith has historically grown because the message of the cross in their lives has been the most powerful witness against falsehood, and its all done without picking up a sword. Lastly, as Christians we recognize that we are no better than other people in the world. We are not Christians because we are more moral than others or better in any way, but only because God was merciful to hell deserving sinners like us. Apart from the grace of God, we have nothing.

    There is something very wrong with the whole SBC/fundamentalist thing in the States because it is most certainly not setting the example urged in the gospels. Now if someone is a fundamentalist, they’re going to know the bible from cover to cover but for these leaders and vocal spokespeople to come out with false doctrine according to the scripture of that faith, they’re clearly either quislings or just ignorant.

    The parallels within that community and what’s happening in the political sphere are uncanny. Trolls are everywhere. Have a look at this:


    There’s a photo of kids holding hate placards. Now that is either playing deliberately into the hands of the suppressors of Christianity who can then draw parallels with the Muslim fundamentalists and turn the community off Christianity as a result or else the man is a fool or both.

    No real Christian would do such a thing because it is diametrically opposite what their scripture says. I come back to the quote above re Breivik.

    It’s a similar thing with the centre-right and the BNP. the Left just loves to see a BNP “outrage” and then sheet it home to the entire right of Marx community. It’s so dishonest it’s dismaying.

    Westboro was claiming that soldiers are being killed because of God’s revenge against America for its tolerance of homosexuality. Now if anything is more calculated to stir up the already hysterical gay issue, that’s it. The few true Christians I know think it is deviating from the norm [and that can be argued another time] but in the end, people choose for themselves.

    As that man quoted above said, fundamentalism of the nature we’re seeing is essentially unChristian.

    And I thought I was alone on this:

    Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity
    Bruce Bawer


    On the surface, it appears that Southern Baptists have been quite faithful carrying out the commandment of Jesus, known as the Great Commission. The number of SBC congregations, the impressive facilities and the large number of programs and activities conducted under the SBC banner is substantial.

    However, the SBC (as well as other denominations) have been infiltrated by a group of men who meet in secret to teach salvation on the basis of another savior. The number of men participating in this secret activity is staggering. Approximately 3.5 million men in the United States are involved. Of the 3.5 million men, an estimated 1.3 million of them are Southern Baptists. (Estimates from Florida Baptist article.) If Southern Baptists are divided into groups of men, women and children, there are approximately 5 million in each group. Of the 5 million men in the SBC, 1.3 million, or 26% of them, are secretly involved in promoting a plan of salvation which is based on another savior!



    And don’t even start me on the World Council of Churches.

    Nuff for now.

    • Voice of Reason
      August 24, 2011 at 8:37 pm

      James – it doesn’t take ‘bad’ people to corrupt ‘good’ religions or philosophies, as history shows repeatedly.

      The problem is the structure of the human brain. Beliefs are managed by the amygdala, the emotional, non-rational (not necessarily irrational) part of the brain. Living consistently by the teachings of those beliefs is a rational decision, housed in the mammalian forebrain.

      Under stress or groupthink, humans revert to emotional thinking, and consistency goes out the window. That’s why we have mobs, revival meetings, and Amway events.

  3. August 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Quantitative data without its qualitative counterpart is always likely to be unreliable and is of little use when trying to conclude why one country/state/county has a higher divorce rate than another.

Comments are closed.