A lot of people get married. And if things work out, they will stay happily married.
But things don’t always work out.
Using individual level Census data from the Minnesota Population Center’s Integrated Public Microdata Sample project, we took a closer look at different marital outcomes by each year of age in 2013, the latest year for which data are available.
Based on responses to questions about marital status and number of marriages, we found the proportion of the population at each age that had never married, was in their first marriage, was widowed, or was in a situation where their first marriage had ended. That last group combines together people who responded that they were divorced, separated from their spouse, or in a second, third, or later marriage.
In 2013, about 12% of 30 year olds had already ended one marriage. The proportion of divorced, separated, or multiply married people maxed out at age 59, when about 42% of respondents fell into this category. That was just shy of the 43% of of 59 year olds who were in their first marriage:
We also compared the 2013 divorced, separated, and multiply married proportions to Census data from earlier decades. The 1960 and 1980 Census long form survey, the predecessor of the American Community Survey, also included questions about marital status and number of marriages.
The results were interesting: In 1960 and 1980, a higher proportion of twenty-somethings had a marriage end than in 2013. Many more people were in second or third marriages by their late 20s in 1960 and 1980 than in 2013.
On the other hand, older Americans have been more likely to fall in this category in recent years: In 2013, respondents over 40 were far more likely to be divorced, separated, or in a later marriage than people of an equivalent age in earlier decades: