Divorce is a common in America today. In many cases, divorce affects people from all walks of life similarly except for the poor.

Between 2005 and 2009, 10.8 percent of "white" people referred to themselves as divorced, according to data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. This number only went up slightly to 11.5% for "black or African-American" people, and 12.6% for "American Indian and Alaska Native" people. However, as recent analysis of Census Bureau's May 2011 report, "Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 2009," suggests, the poor are affected by divorce more than other groups.

The Census Bureau collects marital history from about 39,000 US households and ranks information regarding marriage and divorce, categorizing data into several demographic characteristics. Some demographic characteristics make it more likely that a person would identify themselves as divorced. 24/7 Wall St. identified the characteristics that make it most likely as income, receipt of public assistance, age, education, children, and employment.

Not surprisingly, financial troubles can strain a relationship, eventually leading to a divorce. Poorer people often are less educated, which is another factor for divorce. Those who did not finish college, for instance, are 16% to 19% more likely to be recently divorced. Unfortunately, these trends can create a vicious cycle, as divorce can, in turn, result in poverty. Divorcees, and especially women, often find themselves falling into poverty once they no longer possess the financial stability a marriage can offer. As Census data illustrates, women living below the poverty line are 94% more likely to be recently divorced compared to other women. Women who receive noncash government assistance are 69% more likely to be recently divorced.

These are the Six Demographic Characteristics of Divorce.

6. Age

> Men 35-44 are 76% more likely to be divorced
> Women 25-34 are 88% more likely to be divorced

The age at which people are most likely to get a divorce differs for men and women. In 2008, 31 percent of newly divorced men were between 35 and 44 years of age, which is particularly high given that this age group only represents 17.3 percent of all men polled. Similarly, while only 16.3 percent of all women polled were between 25 to 34 years old, nearly 1/3 of all divorced women fell in this age group. The disparity between these age groups for divorcees is because men often marry younger women than themselves, a fact reported by the Census Bureau.

5. Educational Attainment
> Men with "some college" are 16% more likely to be divorced
> Women with "some college" are 19% more likely to be divorced

In general, college graduates have a better chance at a successful marriage. According to economists at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, this may be because people with college degrees are more likely to enter marriages as a "source of personal fulfillment" rather than "sources of financial stability," as quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Divorce rates for those with "some college," meaning either a two-year program or an incomplete four-year program, fare even worse than those with only a high school degree. While respondents with "some college" represent 33.9% of all women, they represent 40.4% of all divorced women who responded to the survey. The Wharton economists propose that this may be because people usually do not finish college due to lack of drive or for financial reasons, two possibilities which can similarly disrupt marriage.

4. Employment Status
> Men who worked full-time last month are 35% more likely to be divorced
> Women who worked full-time last month are 46% more likely to be divorced

People who work full-time are disproportionately represented among those who get divorces for both men and women. There are a number of ways to look at this. One is that increased participation in the labor force, beginning some time before a couple separates, provides either the man or woman in a bad marriage the financial stability to gain independence and, as a result, divorce their partner, according to a report presented to the Population Association of America. It is also possible that divorcees must work full-time because they are no longer supported by their former spouse.

3. Poverty Level
> Men who did not report their income are 300% more likely to be divorced
> Women who are below the poverty level are 94% more likely to be divorced

"People with economic disadvantages are just as likely to marry as other people, but their marriages are substantially more unstable," reports nonprofit research organization MDRC. Census data supports this claim. Marriage rates are generally equal across all income groups. However, for those identified as divorced, respondents below the poverty level make up a disproportionate amount of this group. This is especially true for women. 12.5 percent of all women fall below the poverty line. This percentage increases to 24.3% for women who were divorced in 2008. Women also frequently fall below the poverty line after becoming divorced, according to the Census.

2. Household Receives Public Assistance
> Men who received noncash assistance are 3% more likely to be divorced
> Women who receive noncash assistance are 69% more likely to be divorced

Although a higher percentage of men who obtained a divorce in 2008 collected noncash public assistance – which includes things like Food Stamps – than the percentage of total men who collected it, the gap is not large enough to be statistically significant. In contrast, roughly 30% of female householders collected noncash assistance, while about 50 percent of women who were divorced that year collected it. Meanwhile, only 26%of men who obtained divorces received noncash assistance. According to the Census Bureau, this shows that "marital disruption results in much poorer economic circumstances for women than for men."

1. Family Status
> Men currently living with own children under 18 are 0% more likely to be divorced
> Women currently living with own children under 18 are 73% more likely to be divorced

Family status for divorcees is another indication of the burden that disproportionately falls on women. The percentage of men who live with their own children is relatively equal to the percentage of divorced men who live with their children, roughly 25%. For women, the percentage jumps from 30% of all women live with their children to 52% of all women reporting a divorce living with their own children. This suggests that divorce affects women with children to a greater extent than it does men as women are left caring for the children alone.

-- Charles B. Stockdale


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