Friday, February 7, 2020

Local Population Grows, Marriage Numbers Lag

There's sure to be a lot of incredible sadness each year among
partners and family members affected by our divorce numbers.

I’ve been recording marriage and divorce numbers for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County since 1996. In spite of an estimated local population increase of over 25% in the past two decades we have had no significant increase in the number of marriage licenses issued. For example, we had exactly the same number of marriages in 2000 as we did last year.

This doesn’t mean we have fewer people in intimate and exclusive relationships, however, but fewer people are choosing to legally document them. Couples often feel it will be easier for them to break up if they aren't officially married but when these unregistered couples do break up, as is frequently do, they likely experience the same distresses divorced partners go through, or worse. 

Unfortunately, they just aren't included in the marriage and divorce numbers below:

Year        Marriages     Divorces

1996           873                 387
1997           950                 405
1998           964                 396
1999           932                 405
2000           947                 365
2001          1003                438     (most annual marriages)
2002           976                 421
2003           961                 399
2004           959                 437
2005           889                 381
2006           929                 389
2007           925                 434
2008           950                 405
2009           903                 347     (fewest annual divorces)
2010           879                 358     (fewest annual marriages since 1996)
2011           933                 433
2012           995                 445
2013           924                 484    
2014           972                 427
2015           955                 474
2016           985                 612     (most annual divorces)
2017           983                 426
2018           935                 476
2019           947                 487

Clarification 1: Marriage numbers are based on the number of marriage licenses issued, and include those who come here from other localities to marry, whereas divorce numbers include only the breakups of people who live in the City or County. However, it is logical to assume that a roughly equal number of residents from here marry in other jurisdictions as marry here from other communities, so the numbers above should be reasonably valid for comparison purposes.

Clarification 2: One cannot assume a rate of divorce based on any one year's numbers, as in "45% of first time marriages in our community will end in divorce." (Many of the above couples are marrying or divorcing for a second, third or fourth time). But with numbers like these over a period of many years, one might safely conclude that the odds of a given marriage surviving are not nearly as good as we would like.

Meanwhile, not surprisingly, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, married adults are more satisfied with their relationship and more trusting of their partners than those who are cohabiting. Here are some of their findings:

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