There’s no question that in past 50 years the divorce rate in the U.S. has increased.
But what really affects divorce rates? 24/7 Wall St. analysed a report just released by the Census Bureau that tracks marital events of Americans in 2009.
What stood out was the high correlation between poverty and divorce.
And while those in the southern states are more likely to get married, they also have higher divorce rates.
See the states with the highest divorce rates >
Our analysis suggests that the difficult economic conditions of many southern states drives the divorce rate higher because residents tend to be poorer.
In the other states where divorce rates are high and poverty is not a predominant factor, such as Nevada, the reason may have to do with liberal divorce laws.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the Census report, “Marital Events of Americans: 2009,” to identify the states with the highest divorce rates, ranking the states with the worst divorce rates overall for both men and women.
The divorce rates count the number of divorces reported per 1,000 men and 1,000 women 15 years and older for the 12 months leading up to 2009.
The primary reason for the difference in rates between genders is the varying populations of each. In order to reflect economic conditions that appear to impact divorce rates, we reviewed median income and poverty levels for each state.
Divorce rate for men: 11.5 (9th highest)
Divorce rate for women: 11.7 (11th highest)
Median household income: $43,340 (10th lowest)
Pct. below poverty line: 16.5% (12th highest)
Georgia's economy is one of the worst in a region that is already in bad shape. The state has one of the lowest median household incomes and among the highest poverty and unemployment rates. The state also has a high divorce rate -- 11.5 out of every 1000 men, and 11.7 out of every 1000 women were divorced in 2009.
Divorce rate for men: 11.1 (11th highest)
Divorce rate for women: 12.5 (6th highest)
Median household income: $35,078 (lowest)
Pct. below poverty line: 21.9% (the highest)
Mississippi is an extremely poor state. It has both the lowest median household income in the country and the highest share of residents living below the poverty line -- over one in five. The state has extremely high rates of divorce, especially among women. It is one of the few states in which alimony is awarded only for marriages that last 10 years or longer.
Divorce rate for men: 12.6 (5th highest)
Divorce rate for women: 13.5 (4th highest)
Median household income: $42,664 (9th lowest)
Pct. below poverty line: 10.5% (tied for 9th highest)
Kentucky falls within the top 10 states for worst-off in the three main economic indicators looked at in this list: unemployment, median household income and percentage of people living below the poverty line. It is also in the top five for divorce rates among both men and women. A growing trend in the state is now is to become unmarried partner households. According to Census data, unmarried households have increased 54% in Kentucky since 2000, while married households have decreased slightly.
Divorce rate for men: 12.7 (4th highest)
Divorce rate for women: 13.9 (3rd highest)
Median household income: $39,980 (3rd lowest)
Pct. below poverty line: 17.5% (6th highest)
Alabama has some of the worst economic conditions for families in the country. In 2009, it was among the worst in poverty, income and unemployment. Possibly as a consequence of these poor conditions, the state has the fourth highest incidence of divorce in the country. Alabama is also one of just nine states to still legally recognise common-law marriage. This means that a couple can be considered legally married and must obtain a legal divorce, if they consummate the marriage, live together and publicly acknowledge their marriage.
Divorce rate for men: 12.5 (6th highest)
Divorce rate for women: 16.2 (highest)
Median household income: $61,604 (5th highest)
Pct. below poverty line: 9% (2nd lowest)
Alaska has the fifth highest median household income in the country, due in large part to the state's rapidly growing petroleum and mining industries. Despite this, the state has one of the highest divorce rates in the country. The rate among men is the sixth highest, and for women it is the absolute highest.
Divorce rate for men: 13.5 (highest)
Divorce rate for women: 12.8 (5th highest)
Median household income: $36,538 (2nd lowest)
Pct. below poverty line: 18.8% (2nd highest)
Arkansas has the second highest divorce rate in the country. Yet another extremely poor southern state, Arkansas has the second highest poverty rate in the U.S., as well as the second-lowest median household income. Arkansas is another state with covenant marriage law, although the number opting for the stricter form of marriage is only in the hundreds.
Divorce rate for men: 12.8 (3rd highest)
Divorce rate for women: 14.1 (2nd highest)
Median household income: $45,878 (18th lowest)
Pct. below poverty line: 16.2% (15th highest)
Oklahoma has extraordinarily high rates of divorce among both men and women compared to the rest of the country. According to the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, 32% of Oklahoma adults who have ever been married have been divorced. The association lists financial troubles as one of the leading causes of divorce in the state.
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