Unemployed people are more likely to divorce than those with jobs. If you’re a Native American female, you’re more likely than anyone to experience a failed marriage, but if you’re an Asian male, your chance of divorce is distant.
These are some of the numbers from FlowingData’s analysis of divorce rates. The site breaks down U.S. divorce rates by education, employment status, and ethnicity, and plots them against age, and makes a great counterpoint to another FlowingData piece on Marrying Age. Each graph also plots men and women separately. In all cases, the number of divorcees increases as people age.
The first thing to note is that the divorce rate isn’t climbing out of control, as is commonly believed. That’s because the easy way to calculate the number of failed marriages is to divide the number of divorces by the number of marriages. The problem here, says FlowingData’s Nathan Yau, is that “The people who marry now aren’t the same people who divorce now.” A serial divorcer will pop up in the numbers many times, while many of today’s marriages will last a good long time.
While the divorce rates vary a lot between racial groups, the chart lines for men and women within each group run close together, with women slightly ahead in all cases. Things get more interesting when it comes to education. The more educated people are, the less likely they are to divorce. The twist is that the genders switch somewhere in the middle. At 60 years old, people with high-school level education, more men (25%) than women (22%) are divorced or remarried. At bachelor education level, we see a reversal—20% of females are divorced or remarried, vs. 17% of men. At advanced levels of education the numbers jump to 19% for females and drop to 13% for males.
As to how employment status affects marriage, the numbers are also surprising. Being unemployed does make people more likely to divorce, but overall the graphs are shaped the same, ramping up after the thirties and leveling off again by the seventies. The surprise is, again, between genders. Employed women over 60 are way more likely to be divorced than employed men, perhaps due to their financial independence.
You could argue that poor education, coupled with unemployment, are the stressors that break the relationship in the first place. But if we take divorce not as a failure of marriage, but as a success of people who want to leave a bad, broken relationship behind, then most of these figures show that less educated and unemployed people are more likely to get what they want.
Either way, the one constant in the whole article is that the figures never go above 45%, which means plenty of people manage to marry and stay that way. Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on what’s keeping them in the marriage, so even this might not be the happy ending we want.