Remember last month when the media noted that the divorce rates in supposedly conservative “red” states was higher than in purportedly liberal “blue” states? That seemed peculiar to Mark Richardson—an Australian!—so he took a closer look at the data:
So I went back to the original source. And to my surprise I found that the divorce statistics had been misrepresented in most of the mainstream media. It turns out that what was being compared was the number of divorces per 1000 people in each state rather than the number of divorces per 1000 married couples:
Rates throughout this report count the marital events reported in the past 12 months per 1,000 men or women in the population 15 and older. (p.2)
That wouldn’t be significant if roughly the same number of people got married in each US state. But that’s not the case. There is a much lower rate of marriage in the liberal north-east of the US:
…the states with the lowest marriage rates for men in 2009 tended to be in the Northeast. Maine and New Jersey were among the states with low marriage rates with 13.5 and 14.8 marriages per 1,000 men. Maine and New Jersey also had low marriage rates per 1,000 women, with 12.2 and 13.3 marriages, respectively. (p.4)
…Twelve of the thirteen states where men had marriage rates below the U.S. average were located east of the Mississippi River. (p.5)
In comparison, a state like Wyoming had a marriage rate of 28.7 – that’s more than double the rate in Maine.
So you might expect states with a higher rate of marriage to also have a higher rate of divorce. And that’s how a representative of the Census Bureau explained the statistics:
Divorce rates tend to be higher in the South because marriage rates are also higher in the South,” said Diana Elliott, a family demographer at the Census Bureau. “In contrast, in the Northeast, first marriages tend to be delayed and the marriage rates are lower, meaning there are also fewer divorces.”
That is the key quote. The demographer responsible for the statistics is explaining in the plainest of English why the divorce rate is lower in the north-east. It is because in the liberal north-east people are less likely to be married in the first place.