We’ve all heard the numbers. Forty to fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce — or something like that, at least.
The oft-cited percentage comes up at weddings, in offices and bars, out on the town. Characters in romantic comedies bring it up so often that it’s become a trope in and of itself.
The number itself is heavily debated, and for years writers have been trying to either prove or debunk it. But whether the 50% is a myth at this point or something more, the fact remains that in this day and age, there’s no perfect consensus on what are the best indicators for divorce.
We were curious about the issue, so we thought we’d look at the aspect of it that we know the most about: jobs. Using PUMS data from the U.S. Census Bureau, we compiled a series of data showing the frequency of divorce for those in our website’s primary demographic — which is people 30 years old or younger — based on their chosen profession.
Here’s what we found.
To start things off, we looked at here was how divorce rates looked for individual jobs. First, we looked at divorce rates for individual positions at age 30, which got us the following graph:
As you can see, it’s a bit too much data to take in all at once, so let’s zoom in and take a look at the top 21 on the list:
Right away, there are a few startling things to note. Military jobs nab 3 of the top 10 spots, including numbers 7, 4, and the number 1 most divorced job for those at age 30, First-Line Enlisted Military Supervisors with a 30% divorce rate.
Logisticians make up the second spot, followed closely by Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics. Engineers and technicians from numerous fields tend to dominate the rest of the list.
The picture becomes a little clearer when we also look at this data in terms of the industries themselves:
We can see here that at more than a 15% divorce rate, those in Military positions are far and away the likeliest to be divorced by the age of 30. Repair and Maintenance positions take second place, with Health and Life Services bringing up third.
This brings up a few questions, the first of which is “Why is it that Military jobs and careers are so much likelier than others to become divorced?” Much like the overall divorce rate, the answer isn’t totally clear, but most think it lies in the stress caused by active service coupled with the military’s tendency to recruit people who are already vulnerable to emotional or financial instability (which can both be contributing factors to unhappy or failed marriages).
Divorce rates for the military versus those for civilians are difficult to compare, due to the way that they are tracked. But according to to a Princeton study from 2008, divorce rates tend to be lower for enlisted men and higher for enlisted women (in comparison to equivalent civilians), while veterans across genders have higher divorce rates than civilians.
The military itself actually encourages marriage by way of both material benefits as well as cultural traditions that place a high value on marriage.
These marriages are often tested by issues such as deployments, frequent moves, and difficulty with reintegrating the enlisted spouse back into the family’s daily life when they return home, but Jacey Eckhart from Military.com writes that when it comes to couples whose marriages were created with these kinds of separations in mind actually tended to have very strong marriages.
The key points, as Eckhart puts it, are the service member’s dedication to the military and the spouse’s ability to “create normal” when it came to the family structure. After a service member has been in the military 15 years, they’re “in it for the duration” — that is, they’re extremely likely to remain in the military until retirement.
With the service member being gone from the house as often as they are, this leaves the spouse with the responsibility of defining what normalcy is within the household, and also gives this person the capacity to assist the service member with getting back into their “normal” life by letting them complete household chores, integrating them back into the family dynamic in a meaningful and measurable way.
However, while these types of cooperative relationships serve as a demonstration of why the military divorce rate is as low as it is, they’re only the story with those who are in the military service for life. As this article from Smart Couples describes, some studies show that for those service men and women who leave the military before becoming “career” military men and women, the rates of divorce go up.
So all this could explain why Military jobs are so heavily associated with high divorce rates. But it’s important to note here that marriage rates for those 30 years and younger are dropping, despite the overall divorce rate remaining roughly the same. If not from the younger generation, where does that 40-50% divorce rate come from?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, you have the Boomers to thank for this one.
In their youth, Baby Boomers were already divorcing at record rates, and they’ve continued this trend even now that they represent an older demographic — divorce rates for those 50 years and older are climbing rapidly as Boomers age into the bracket.
That’s not to say that those 50-and-overs are having the most divorces — that still goes to the 40-and-unders, who overall have a divorce rate of roughly 24%. But the 50+ divorce rate has been rising dramatically even as divorce rates for younger demographics have been falling.
So far, this change has been attributed to a few possible causes. Newer generations have been putting off marriage until later and later ages, and with the median age of a failed marriage being roughly 8 years, it’s possible that millennials are simply delaying their divorces, or even that some of these current so-called “gray divorces” are the product of later marriages.
Again, Baby Boomers had enormous divorce rates in their youth but were also very likely to get married compared to later generations, which may have generated a sort of marriage/divorce feedback loop. Given that the likelihood of a divorce increases with each subsequent marriage (60% of second marriages end in divorce, 73% of third marriages), there’s a chance that Boomers are now moving into the stage where they’re divorcing their second (or third) spouse who they were already much likelier to divorce in the first place.
Whatever the reason, don’t give up hope. While fewer people these days are getting married, it does seem as though more and more people are staying together for the long haul. We’ll have to wait and see if gen-Xers and millennials remain together for the long haul, but for now, we’ll just have to keep hoping for those Baby Boomers to finally settle down.
That’s all for this one, but there’s more to see here at Zippia.
Have you recently left the military? Find out which states are the best for veterans to find jobs.
Or do you already have an area in mind, but you’re wondering what the best jobs there are? Check out some of our company ranking articles, like this one showing which companies are the best to work for in Charlotte, North Carolina.