If you pool together all the available data from the 2008 American Community Survey and National Vital Statistics Report, one could say the top five biggest divorce states should include Nevada, Maine, Wyoming, Montana, and Oklahoma. Honorable mentions would then probably go to Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, West Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, and Alaska. If you live among these areas, you are probably wondering what drives these statistics. Is it the people, values, economics, religion, or politics?
Well, according to researchers, it’s a little bit of all the above.
Blue vs. Red States
According to the book. Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture, Blue states tend to have statistically lower divorce rates. According to the authors, red state families (Kentucky, Arkansas, etc) push young adults to marry and cultivate families early, while blue states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, etc) support waiting until the couple is well established to marry and have a family. This puts economics in the favor of the blue family, which results in less strain on the relationship, and thus decreased divorce rates.
The traditional view of red family states place the husband as the primary breadwinner and the wife as primary caretaker (kids). According to the authors, the traditional red state wife is assumed to prefer staying home to fostering a career. When economics doesn’t allow for this, the working wife will end up disappointed in their relationship (and husband), thus increasing the chances of divorce. Blue states, such as Massachusetts and Connecticut, featuring slightly older parents who have established careers, report less monetary tensions and the most satisfaction in their role as dual economic contributors.
Age vs. Sex
Some researchers suggest the differing divorce rates between red and blue states, could also be sex related. The red states (bible belt) advocate teenagers to wait until marriage to have sex (abstinence), which may persuade these youths to marry early to enjoy the spoils of sex earlier. These couples also inevitably have kids sooner, which often derails plans for further education, thus stifling the opportunity to make more money down the road.
According to statistics, the average age of a first time mother in Mississippi is 23, and in Massachusetts it is 28. Couples who choose to delay marriage and families, have a more independent view on premarital sex, meaning they do not view it as good or bad (right or wrong), but rather a personal choice. Couples who wait to have children later are settled in their relationships and careers, so when it’s time to start a family, they have already weathered the struggles normally associated with early adulthood, and they are more prepared to succeed.
Gain vs. Loss
Certain states offer harsh punishment (lifetime alimony), causing couples to think twice about divorce. Studies show that countries with poorer populations have a higher cheating rate than populations with greater wealth. This has a lot to do with what a couple stands to lose. New York has a relatively high income, high education level, and low divorce rate. In addition, their lack of “no-fault” divorce laws means couples can’t just call it quits, but must go through a lengthy court hearing, which is not only costly (loss), but often involves emotionally driven court accusations (more loss).
One of the easiest states to dissolve a marriage is Nevada, which also happens to be the number one divorce state. All that’s needed is residency (six weeks) and you can opt for the “quick divorce”. You don’t need a reason (because you feel like it, is good enough for the court) and all assets will be divided 50-50. A divorce can be completed in as little as 48 hours when uncontested, which opens the possibility of a hasty decision becoming permanent before your guns have even had a chance to cool.
Statistics vs. Free Will
What we can learn from these statistics beyond staying out of these states, is that maturity prepares couples for the rigors of marriage, and taking the time to establish a career before fostering a child is not a bad idea in this economy. Also, thinking of divorce in terms of your last resort, will guide you along the path of healing, before resigning to a quick termination. Many couples who have stuck through rocky marriages, report being glad they did. Just because you can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Of course, some relationships have too much going against them, and for those your best option is to forgive, let go, and move on to a different state, preferably one in the Northeast!