Divorce Rate: 1913 and 2013

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, March 13, 1913:  Nothing doing.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll go off on another tangent–

I’ve been reading some Edith Wharton books from the early 20th century—and one of the themes in her writing is unhappy marriages and the role of divorce. This made me wonder if divorce rates have changed much across the years.

The divorce rate was 0.9 per thousand population in 1913. It peaked at 4.6 in 1993; and decreased to 3.6 in 2013.

For those of you who care about the source of the data–The historic data is from Infoplease, and the data for the current year is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If data for the exact year were not available, I used data from the nearest available year (typically the first year of the decade–for example, I used 1910 data for 1913).

Here are links to some previous posts on statistics that you might enjoy:

Average Height for Males and Females in 1912 and 2012

Infant Mortality Rates: 1912 and 2012

Are You Obese? 1911 and 2011

Life Expectancy—1911 and 2011

Median Age at Marriage—Then and Now

18 Responses

  1. I always love statistics and polling. I guess it is in the blood since I am related to Gallup :-).

  2. Very interesting.
    Have you read any Dorothy Whipple? Similar themes.

    • I haven’t heard of her–but I googled her name and she looks like an author I’d enjoy. I’ll have to look for her books. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Interesting!

  4. Interesting. My parents were married in 1929 (they were married quite a while before I was born!); I was shocked to learn that my dad had been divorced from his first wife.

  5. With time, we have not gained much wisdom have we? – or maybe we have. The statistics reveal an awful picture – or do they?

  6. I’m so on trend, I was divorced in 93′..glad to have contributed. HA

  7. Stats are interesting but don’t tell the whole story… e.g. here in Australia Divorce rates skyrocketing in the 1970’s after “no fault” divorce laws were brought in but settled down as soon as “the catch up” was completed ;-)
    Divorce was less common, in England, during the 19C because it was very expensive, I understand… The unwealthy (like some of my Ancestors) never divorced, they just “split” and the next woman took the man’s name, claimed she was his wife, and the children were named after him. Can be frustrating and I suspect is why I can’t find what happened to my Great Grandfather’s first wife. She didn’t die… well, she didn’t die under her birth & married name and there’s no second marriage recorded for her.
    Great Grandfather never married my Great Grandmother and originally their son (my Grandfather) took her maiden name, as his surname… by the following Census, when they had both moverd in with him, (10 years later… prior to that they were just “visiting”) Grandfather had taken on his father’s name.
    So, I’ve found that stats only tell part of the story… unfortunately :-)

    • Whew, it sure can add a lot of complexity when researching family history. It’s really interesting how families were sometimes formed and dissolved back in the old days.

  8. I’ve found cases where the wife is listed as a widow but the husband is in a different town, remarried.

  9. My grandmother was in the unusual early percentage, and I’m glad ahe divorced him…the archive docs re sad. Like Kristin, I feel I may have a widow who wasn’t.

  10. I expected that today’s rate would be the highest. Glad to see it’s gone down, if not just a little.
    Also, she said “nothing doing”! :-P

  11. Has the rate if divorce gone down because rate of marriages have also gone down. More people don’t get married but live together

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