Making Sense of Divorce Using the Sociological Imagination
Let’s apply the sociological imagination to something most students are deeply concerned about
—divorce. Are there larger social and personal factors that will impact your own risk of divorce?
Yes. In spite of the fact that 223,000,000 people are married in the U.S., divorce continues to be
a very common occurrence (see http://www.Census.gov ). Divorce happens and since millions
of us (me included) had our parent’s divorce, we are especially concerned about the success of
our own marriage.
What’s in the larger social picture? Estimates for the U.S. suggest that 85 percent of us will
marry (Popenoe, D. 2007 in 5 June, 2008 from
http://marriage.rutgers.edu/Publications/SOOU/TEXTSOOU2007.htm ). Yet, so many of us feel
tremendous anxiety about marriage. Consider the marriage and divorce rates in Table 1 below.
The first thing you notice is that both have been declining since 1990. The second thing you
notice is that the ratio of marriages to divorces is consistently 2 marriages to 1 divorce (2:1). To
point out, the divorce and marriage rates in Table 1 are called Crude Divorce and Crude Marriage
rates because they compare the divorces and marriages to everyone in the population for a given
year, even though children and others have virtually no risk of either marrying or divorcing.
Table 1: Comparison of US Marriages/1,000 Persons to Divorces/1,000 Persons 1990, 2000, and
1990 Rates 2000 Rates 2005 Rates 3-year Average
US Ratio of Marriages to Divorces 2:1
*Statistical Abstracts online: Table 121. Marriages and Divorces—Number and Rate by State:
1990 to 2005 Taken from the Internet on 5 June, 2008 from
Does sociology provide personal and larger social insight into what we can do to have a good
marriage and avoid divorce? Absolutely! However; before we discuss these, lets set the record
straight. There never was a 1 in 2 chance of getting divorced in the U.S. ( see
http://www.Rutgers.edu the National Marriage Project, 2004 “The State of Our Unions” or
Kalman Heller “The Myth of the High Rate of Divorce taken from Internet 5 June, 2008 from
http://www.isnare.com/?aid=217950&ca=Marriage ). Divorce rates peaked in the 1980’s and