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Census Bureau Report Higher Divorce Rates in South and West

The Census Bureau released a report entitled Marital Events of Americans: 2009, the first-ever detailed analysis of the marriage and divorce patterns of Americans 15 years and older, which found that southern and western states have both higher rates of marriage and divorce. In 2009, the divorce rate was 10.2 per 1,000 for men and 11.1 per 1,000 for women in the South, compared to the national average, which for men is 9.2 and for women is 9.7.

The southern states with the highest rate of divorce included Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. By contrast, states in the Northeast have the lowest overall rates of divorce in the US, which the Census Bureau indicated was partially a result of a delayed age of marriage. Dr. Andrew Cherlin, professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University, stated, “The reason is that young adults in the South and West tend to have less education and marry earlier, both of which lead to a higher risk of divorce. The South and West also have many migrants from other parts of the region who have left their social support networks behind. When they have marital problems, they have fewer people to turn to for help.”

Women who got a divorce within the last year had lower reported household incomes than recently divorced men and were more likely to be recipients of public assistance. Moreover, recently divorced women were more likely to be living in multigenerational households.

Sources:

Census Bureau Statement 8/25/11; NPR 8/25/11