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Divorce Rates Differ by Geography: US Census

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2021 | Divorce

Discover why the rates of divorce are higher in some areas of the United States. The results you will see are based on a US Census report published in 2009.

When planning a move, people tend to inquire about schools, malls, hospitals, parks and other amenities around their next home. However, these days, folks heading to certain parts of the country may be well advised to do some advanced scouting on family courts and divorce lawyers, because when it comes to saying “I don’t,” not all areas are created (statistically) equal.
That’s according to the US Census in its recently-released report “Marital Events of Americans: 2009” (click here to download the report in .pdf format), which found the highest rates of divorce in the Southern US and the lowest in the Northeast – an observation that, at first glance, runs contrary to the widely-held perception that conservative folks in the South are more of your “’till death do us part/ties that bind” types, while those in the liberal Northeast are less phased by divorce (i.e. “what husband/wife are you on?” is not an altogether stunning question).

However, Census Bureau family demographer Diana Elliott has a simple explanation for this: it’s about marriage rates, not divorce rates.

“Divorce rates tend to be higher in the South because marriage rates are also higher in the South,” Elliott stated. “In contrast, in the Northeast, first marriages tend to be delayed and the marriage rates are lower, meaning there are also fewer divorces.”

The report also found that for every 1000 men and 1000 women in the South, 10.2 men and 11.1 women were divorced, respectively. That ranking also held in the Northeast, where the numbers were 7.2 (men) and 7.5 (women). The report explains the rate difference between genders as the result of three factors: women live longer, they marry older men, and they re-marry less.

Other key stats identified in the report:

  • The states with the highest divorce rates for men: Arkansas , Maine , Oklahoma , Alabama , Kentucky
  • The states with the highest divorce rates for women: Alaska , Oklahoma , Alabama , Kentucky , Arkansas
  • “South” includes: Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas
  • “Northeast” includes: Connecticut , Maine , Massachusetts , New Hampshire , Rhode Island , Vermont , New Jersey , New York , and Pennsylvani