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First-time divorce rate tied to education and race

New research from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) in America shows there is substantial variation in the first-time divorce rate when it is broken down by race and education. There is also evidence that a college degree has a protective effect against divorce among all races.


The research found that among women in a first marriage, the rate of first divorce is highest for those who received some education after high school, but have not earned a bachelor’s degree — 23 per 1,000. The association between education and divorce is also curvilinear. The least (no high school diploma or GED) and the highest (college degree) educated women share the lowest rate of first divorce, with 14.4 and 14.2 per 1,000, respectively.


Broken down by race and ethnicity, the study found Asian women have the lowest first divorce rate at 10 divorces per 1,000 women in a first marriage. The first divorce rates of white and Hispanic women were similar at 16.3 and 18.1, respectively. African-American women have substantially higher rates of first divorce compared to all other racial and ethnic groups, at 30.4 divorces per 1,000 women in a first marriage.


Once education was factored in, the NCFMR found, with the exception of Asians, the highest rate of first divorce was among women with some college education, regardless of race or ethnicity.


Dr. Susan Brown, NCFMR co-director, explained:


“Contrary to the notion that women with a college degree face the lowest chances of divorce, those without a high school degree actually have similar low odds of divorce. The relationship between education and divorce is not straightforward.”


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