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.
The U.S. Census Bureau 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:
|Couples in the South enter their first marriages at a younger age.|
|Family incomes in the South are lower.|
|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” [PDF - 805 KB].
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:
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 :
Cricket – a game which the English, not being a spiritual people, have invented in order to give themselves some conception of eternity.