map placeholder

Divorce Rate by State 2023

Divorce Rate by State 2023

Marriage and divorce are both common experiences for adults, although both can be challenging. About 90% of people in Western cultures enter either heterosexual or same-sex marriages by age 50. In the United States, between 35%-50% of first-time marriages end in divorce, increasing to approximately 60% for second marriages and 70+% for marriages after the second. This gives the US one of the highest divorce rates in the world. Divorces can be emotionally and financially difficult, and can greatly impact not only the divorcees, but also their children.

State-level divorce totals are inextricably tied to marriage rates per state, as a state with half as many marriages as another will also have half the number of potential divorces. According to the United States Census Bureau, the national marriage rate for 2019 was 16.3 per 1,000 women 15 and older and the national divorce rate was 7.6. It is worth noting that divorce data is difficult to track consistently, so sources that utilize a different methodology (such as the National Center for Health Statistics) may have different results.

15 States with the Highest Divorce Rates (NCHS 2021):*

  1. Nevada — 4.2
  2. Oklahoma — 3.8
  3. Wyoming — 3.7
  4. Alabama — 3.6
  5. Arkansas — 3.6
  6. Florida — 3.4
  7. Idaho — 3.4
  8. Kentucky — 3.3
  9. Mississippi — 3.3
  10. Tennessee — 3.3
  11. Utah — 3.3
  12. North Carolina — 3.2
  13. Alaska — 3.1
  14. Virginia — 3.1
  15. Colorado — 3.0

* Rates are per 1000 female residents aged 15 or older.

For 2021, Nevada posted the highest divorce rate of any state, with 4.2 new divorces per 1,000 females aged 15 and older. The high divorce rate in Nevada is partially due to the state's uniquely accommodating marriage laws, which give it a marriage rate (26.2 in 2021) more than twice that of any other state. Nevada's wedding laws are famously evident in the tourist-friendly city of Las Vegas, where couples can spontaneously tie the knot with minimal paperwork in dozens of walk-in wedding chapels, including drive-thru and Elvis-impersonator options. However, what seems like a good idea during a moment of revelry can often seem less ideal the next day, which contributes to a higher percentage of people testing to see if the state's divorce laws are equally user-friendly. (They nearly are. A divorce can often be finalized within ten days in Nevada.)

15 States with the Lowest Divorce Rates (NCHS 2021):

  1. Massachusetts — 1.0
  2. Illinois — 1.3
  3. Texas — 1.4
  4. Maryland — 1.6
  5. Kansas — 1.9
  6. Wisconsin — 2.1
  7. Georgia — 2.2
  8. Louisiana — 2.2
  9. New Jersey — 2.2
  10. New York — 2.2
  11. Iowa — 2.3
  12. Michigan — 2.3
  13. Vermont — 2.3
  14. Pennsylvania — 2.4
  15. South Carolina — 2.4

Trends in divorce rates in the US

Although marriage rates have arguably received a slight boost in states where same-sex marriage is legal, the overall rates of both marriage and divorce are decreasing in the US. This trend is the result of multiple factors, but one of the most prominent is a tendency for Millennials to wait longer before entering into marriage, or simply forgo marriage altogether in favor of cohabitation. Note, however, that even extended cohabitation does not necessarily make them unofficial spouses, even in Common Law Marriage states.

The current tendency to wait for or opt out of marriage decreases the overall number of divorces in two ways. Firstly, by reducing the total number of marriages, the number of possible divorces is decreased in turn. Secondly, because the odds of divorce decrease as a married couple increases in age, the wait makes the marriage more likely to succeed once it takes place.

Difficulty interpreting divorce rates

Comprehensive data on divorce rates can be time-consuming and difficult to obtain. Moreover, even the data that has been obtained can be misleading. Divorce rates are typically expressed as the number of divorced women per 1000 women aged 15 or older in the population (which falls within the minimum marriage ages of most states and does not run afoul of child marriage laws). However, alternative ways of expressing divorce rates are occasionally used and can be statistically inaccurate.

For example, Oklahoma's 2021 divorce frequency of 3.8 divorces per 1000 females) may seem low, and certainly seems misaligned from the notion that 35-50% of all marriages result in divorce. However, when compared to the state's marriage rate of 6.1, it yields a value of just over 62%. This percentage may be incorrectly presented as the state's divorce rate, but it is actually the ratio of divorces to marriages, which is influenced in equal measure by not only each state's divorce rate but also its marriage rate.

Moreover, the percentage of a state's residents who are divorced may sometimes be incorrectly presented as the divorce rate. To return to Oklahoma as an example, 10.25% of its residents identified themselves as divorcees. However, this is not the state's divorce rate, either. Rather, it is the percentage of the state's citizens who are currently divorced, which does not include those who have remarried after a divorce and includes every divorcee regardless of the year in which the divorce took place. As such, this percentage does not necessarily correspond to the current divorce rate.

Finally, it is important to note that divorce rates do not include individuals who are currently separated from their spouse, but not yet divorced.

Factors that influence divorce rates

Divorce rates can be affected by several different variables. The most obvious of these is age. The average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old. Couples married between the ages of 20-25 are 60% likely to get a divorce. Those who wait until they are older than 25 to get married are 24% less likely to get divorced.

Education, lifestyle, religious beliefs, and time of year are also important influencing factors. Couples who have attained a higher level of education reduce their risk of divorce, and those with strong religious beliefs are 14% less likely to get a divorce. Couples who are both heavy drinkers are less likely to divorce than couples in which only one member is a heavy drinker. Divorce rates consistently spike in March and August every year. Northeastern states tend to have the lowest marriage and divorce rates, while Southern and Western states tend to have the highest marriage and divorce rates.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau survey, the top three reasons for divorces are incompatibility (43%), infidelity (28%), and money issues (22%).

Here are the 10 states with the highest rates of divorce:

  1. Nevada - 4.2%
  2. Oklahoma - 3.8%
  3. Wyoming - 3.7%
  4. Alabama - 3.6%
  5. Arkansas - 3.6%
  6. Florida - 3.4%
  7. Idaho - 3.4%
  8. Kentucky - 3.3%
  9. Mississippi - 3.3%
  10. Tennessee - 3.3%

Divorce Rate by State 2023

Divorce Rate by State 2023

Notes: 1) All data displayed are annual counts per 1000 women at least 15 years of age. 2) All data are sourced from the National Center for Health Statistics or the United States Census Bureau. 3) NCHS data do not include divorce rates for California, Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, or New Mexico. 4) Section headers may use abbreviations: Divorce = Div, Population = Pop, Separated = Sep.

Divorce Rate by State 2023