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Nov 13th, 2008

Divorce around the World

If asked, "Which country has the highest divorce rate?" many people will guess that it's the United States, since every so often another newspaper report describes the high divorce rate and the latest theories as to why the rate is so high. Indeed, the most recent available statistics indicate that in 2005, the divorce rate in the U.S. was 3.6 per 1,000 — that is, of every 1,000,000 marriages, about 3,600 ended in divorce. 

Divorce Rate Differs across the U.S. 

The 50 states have significantly different divorce rates; for example, in 2005, Nevada's was the highest, at 6.4 per 1,000. This matches the "common wisdom" about the ease and frequency of Las Vegas divorces, but the state with the second-highest divorce rate is one that you might not expect — not California, not New York — Arkansas, at 6.1 per 1,000. The state with the lowest rate was Massachusetts (2.2 divorces per 1,000 marriages). 

Top Ten “Divorce” States (per 1,000 marriages) 

  • Nevada – 6.4
  • Arkansas – 6.1
  • Wyoming – 5.2
  • West Virginia – 5.0
  • Idaho – 5.0
  • Alabama – 4.9
  • Kentucky – 4.9
  • Oklahoma – 4.9
  • Tennessee- 4.9
  • Florida – 4.8 

Here as elsewhere around the world, the "divorce rate" does not take into account the significant number of couples who are living together and eventually divorce — even if the marriage lasted decades, produced children, and in all other respects resembled a legal marriage. The divorce rate also does not consider homosexual unions. 

Divorce Rates around the World 

Divorce rates are difficult to establish even in countries that keep the best possible records, and it's thus hard to state with complete confidence that one particular country has the highest divorce rate. Divorce rate numbers should be viewed with some skepticism. 

When it comes to divorce, Sweden is apparently giving the U.S. a "run for its money." In addition, the Ukraine's divorce rate has been reported to be at least as high as that of the U.S., while the lowest rates of divorce include India, Mexico, and Italy. The low divorce rates have been said to be attributed largely to religious beliefs. 

(Source: National Center for Health Statistics) 

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