Most of you have probably heard the statistic: 50% of marriages end in divorce. While we can’t quote a research study off the top of our heads to back this up, this statistic seems to be true, like an urban legend that’s come to life. What’s horrible is that this 50% statistic casts a pall over the institution of marriage itself. With a 50% failure rate, who would want to get married anymore?
If I told you that the bank you invested all of your hard earned money in had a 50% chance of going belly up and taking all your money, would you continue to invest there? What if I told you that if you drove your car to work this week, there would be a 50% chance that your brakes would go out and you’d suffer a catastrophic car accident? Would you still drive to work? No way! Even if I told you that if you walked outside to check your mail there was a 50% chance that a roving band of flesh-eating gerbils would attack you, it would make you think twice about going outside. And yet the failure rate of marriage seems to hover around 50%. Who would want to get married with those odds?
Today, let’s debunk that statistical myth a little bit. The average divorce rate is actually somewhere between 40% and 50%. Folks just like to round it up to a solid 50% to make it sound more ominous. What’s really interesting is when you begin to dig into the actual 50% numbers. The National Marriage Institute of the University of Virginia states, “The background characteristics of people entering a marriage have major implications for their risk of divorce.” In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller summarizes the findings from the National Marriage Institute this way, “the greatest percentages of divorces happen to those who marry before the age of eighteen, who have dropped out of high school, and who have had a baby together before marrying. ‘So if you are a reasonably well-educated person with a decent income, come from an intact family and are religious, and marry after twenty-five without having a baby first, your chances of divorce are low indeed. (15)’”
What does that mean for us today? Marriage isn’t as bad off as it seems. The majority of people that make up the “50%” of divorces enter into marriages in circumstances outside of societal norms (i.e. high school dropout, baby before marriage). For those who do marriage the traditional way, the divorce rate is far below 50%. So don’t lose hope. Marriage isn’t as bad off as it seems.
If you want to hear more about marriage, I’ve started a brand new sermon series on marriage titled “I Want a New Marriage!” You can listen to the previous sermons by clicking here.
QUESTION: In your immediate circle of family and friends, where does the divorce rate seem to stand?