Assess Your Divorce Risk widget…

Posted on December 2, 2008. Filed under: reality |

I just got this blog post in my reader, from the nerdy folks at the Freakonomics blog, titled “Assessing Your Divorce Risk.”

What are the odds of your marriage ending in divorce?

This is a risk with some pretty important consequences, but chances are, you don’t have the foggiest idea on how to quantify it. Until now.

My favorite economist (and my significant other), Betsey Stevenson, has put together a neat online widget for the folks at The widget crunches recent marital history data to assess your chances of getting divorced, and it does this by taking account of some very simple demographics. Learn your divorce risk here.

This is particularly interesting to me because of a comment conversation we had on my Something Old Something New post.  Erin commented:

You asked what do you gain by waiting a few years to get married – I guess it is related to whatever you think you will lose by waiting (or gain by not waiting). Statistically speaking, waiting causes you to lose percentage points! People are always saying that they have a 50% chance of getting divorced – that is not true for everyone. Older than 25 when you get married, you can subtract 9%. Combined income over $75k, subtract a bunch more. Not pregnant? Already started your careers? Subtract a bunch more. Statistically speaking, your first marriage was more likely to fail than this one just based on your age alone (I deduced you were 21 when you first got married) and possibly career status.

She’s right.  The 50% divorce rate doesn’t seem to be true for most people.  The research upon which the widget is based is here (and the trends are discussed here and here), by the way.

As Justin writes:

The point is that factors like age at first marriage and education tell us a lot about divorce risk. Let’s not confuse correlation and causation though — these divorce risks are useful as statistical forecasts (even if they can’t answer the “what if” question) of how divorce risks change if you delay your marriage.

Given how forthcoming I am about, well, everything (see: boobs, divorces, communication problems), I don’t think you’ll be surprised that I’m willing to share my results.  For my first marriage, at the point that we separated (five years in) I got this (interestingly, had I been a college graduate when we got married, my divorce risk would have been higher!):

People with similar backgrounds who are already divorced:  23%

People with similar backgrounds who will be divorced over the next five years: 21%

For my second marriage:

People with similar backgrounds who are already divorced:  N/A

People with similar backgrounds who will be divorced over the next five years: 8%

Hmmmm.  And, just for kicks, Mr. Cheese’s risk:

People with similar backgrounds who are already divorced:  N/A

People with similar backgrounds who will be divorced over the next five years: 7%

So, Mr. Cheese is less likely to get divorced than I am (is it bad that this makes me feel good?) and our risks are both FAR under the 50% rate that’s often quoted.  At the point that we plan to have kids (in a couple of years), my risk falls another two percentage points to 6%.

I found it odd that I wasn’t asked if I’d been married before, so I went digging and found this footnote in the paper underlying the widget:

We concentrate on first marriages so that the divorce hazards reflect the average person’s experience rather than the average marital experience. The patterns are similar for second marriages, however second marriages are more likely to end in divorce.

So, my risk of divorce is slightly higher than Mr. Cheese’s after all.

{Brief interlude to remind people that this is just an online tool meant to enlighten, that I certainly don’t intend to imply that anybody wants or plans to get divorced, and to ask that we keep our comments respectful around what can be a touchy subject for some people. Not for me, though, don’t worry.  I’m an open book.  All questions are fair game with me; I don’t necessarily have to answer them, after all!}

I took it.  Did you?


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    I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt (and divorce papers) to prove it. Here I am again, pledging my life to my (new) love with eyes wide open (and heart racing) knowing full well how emotionally traumatic this can end… and doing it anyway.


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