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Why divorce rates don't work

You can read countless studies that disagree on the divorce rate. People often say that around 50 percent of marriages end up heading to divorce. Some argue that the number is trending down, while others argue that it's going up.

Still others say that it depends on the people you look at in your study. For example, some claim the rate is falling for the educated while staying very high for the uneducated. Others argue that it's been trending up for the elderly.

Overall, the issue is that there are usually problems with the way that divorce rates are calculated. For example, one method looks at how many divorces there are in a given area, compares that number to the overall population and finds a rate per 1,000 people.

That can help, but it leaves out all sorts of important information, including how many people are married in the first place. Statistically, some areas have far more married couples than others. If the area being studied has a higher percentage of couples who simply haven't tied the knot, there are just fewer couples out of every 1,000 people who can possibly get divorced, making the rate look low. In some senses, using the amount of divorces per the amount of married couples -- not the total population -- may work better.

One thing that you'll find when going through the numbers is that divorce simply remains common. Is it exactly 50 percent? Is your demographic trending up or down? Knowing the exact figures is less important than understanding that divorce happens and knowing your legal rights if you find yourself on that path.

Source: Psychology Today, "What Is the Divorce Rate, Really?," Bella DePaulo, accessed May 02, 2017

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