Divorce can be a love story: New study explores divorce statistics around the world

Read the full story at Psychology Today: “Divorce Rates Around the World: A Love Story”

What do we know about the rates of divorce all around the world, and how they have been changing over time? Thanks to a recently published study, we now know a whole lot more than we did before.

University of California at Irvine sociologists Cheng-Tong Lir Wang and Evan Schofer analyzed nearly four decades of divorce data (1970-2008) from 84 countries around the world. They looked at changes in rates of divorce over time and different rates of divorce in different places. Their report, “Coming out of the penumbras: World culture and cross-national variation in divorce rates,” was published in the December 2018 issue of Social Forces.

Some key findings:

Worldwide Growth in Rates of Divorce

Globally, in the nearly four decades between 1970 and 2008, the divorce rate has more than doubled, from 2.6 divorces for every 1,000 married people to 5.5. Those results are averaged across all the regions of the world that they studied.

What Is Different about the Nations that Have Higher Rates of Divorce?

They have a higher level of economic development. One of the most powerful predictors of the rate of divorce is a country’s gross national income (per capita). In wealthier countries (as measured by gross national income), a greater proportion of people get divorced.

More of their women are in the workforce. Countries with a greater percentage of women (ages 15 and older) in the labor force have higher rates of divorce.

They are more highly educated. Nations with more people enrolled in secondary education have higher divorce rates.

They have lower proportions of Catholics. Nations with proportionately more Catholics have lower rates of divorce. Nations with greater proportions of Muslims also have lower divorce rates, but the results are not always statistically significant.

They are more likely to be part of international organizations and treaties.The authors believe that when nations sign onto international non-governmental organizations and treaties, they are more likely to be influenced by global norms and ideas such as individual rights, the importance of consent, and the freedom to choose one’s own destiny. An example is the Convention to Eliminate All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The authors see a country’s ratification of CEDAW as an indication of its “commitment to the cultural principles of individualism and gender equality.” Nations with higher rates of membership in international non-governmental organizations and treaties have higher rates of divorce.

Why Divorce Stories Can Be Love Stories

Divorce can be a devastating experience for the adults who are splitting as well as their children. But it can be an empowering, and sometimes even life-saving, choice when the alternative of staying in the marriage is even worse.


Divorce can be a love story when people love themselves enough to walk away from a bad situation.

Divorce can be a love story when people believe that they can find romantic love once again.

Divorce can be a love story when people realize that they already have love, in the biggest, broadest sense of the word. Maybe they have friendsthey love and family they love. Maybe they realize that the romantic version of love is just one version, and a rather narrow one at that. Maybe those friends and family who are so important to them have been in their lives a whole lot longer than their former spouse.

Divorce can be a love story when people realize that they love their life outside of marriage. Maybe they love their single life more than any other life. Maybe they especially love living alone.

Read the full story at Psychology Today: “Divorce Rates Around the World: A Love Story”