Is the U.S. divorce rate going up rather than down?

Here is their case. First, the demographers take a careful look at the quality of the data that has been used to calculate divorce rates over the past 30 years. They compare multiple sources of data. In general, population experts have known there have been various problems in the reporting of data, but have generally thought that several more recent methods could be relied on to overcome these problems. Not so says Kennedy and Ruggles. They find that even the better data sources have flaws in the ways that data are collected and may have badly distorted the true divorce rate.

The good news is that in 2008, the US Census Bureau added divorce-related questions to the American Community Survey. This survey annually collects data from a representative group of Americans and is generally the best scientific assessment of the US population. These data gives researchers better information about the divorce rate. The other contribution made by Kennedy and Ruggles is to consider patterns of divorce among different age groups. For many years, the pattern of divorce across age groups indicated that divorce increased in young people until around 25 years of age and then steadily declined among older people. Looking more closely at these data, it becomes apparent that in the more recent decades, the divorce rate has not been declining as rapidly for those over age 35. The result is that people well into their 60s are divorcing at a higher rate than in previous decades. Based on these new data and this careful attention to the changing patterns of divorce among older Americans, the authors conclude, “The age-standardized refined divorce rate increased substantially after 1990 and is now at an all-time high” (Kennedy & Ruggles, 2014).