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Marriage and Divorce

2012 Marriage and Divorce



Beginning with 2009 data, new systems were implemented for recording marriages and divorces in Texas.

In 2012, there were 184,690 marriages reported to the Texas Vital Statistics Unit (VSU), an increase of 7,471 compared to 2011 in which there were 177,219 marriages reported. The crude marriage rate of 6.9 marriages per 1,000 residents in 2011 increased in 2012 to 7.1.

The number of divorces reported to VSU increased to 80,030 in 2012 from 79,024 in the previous year. The crude divorce rate of 3.1 divorces per 1,000 residents stayed the same in 2012 the previous year of 2011 at 3.1.


Marriage Trends: 1970-2012

In 2012, 184,690 marriages were reported to VSU. This number is up 4.2 percent from the 177,219 marriages reported in 2011. Since 1970, the first year of reliable reporting, the number of Texas marriages increased until they reached an all-time high of 210,978 in 1984. The number of marriages declined consistently until 1989 when there were 170,964 marriages. The number of marriages held fairly steady in the 1990s, but dipped to 165,562 in 1998. Between 2001 and 2008, the number of marriages has decreased. Starting in 2009, the number of marriages has been on the rise with minimal fluctuation.

The 2012 crude marriage rate rose to 7.1 marriages per 1,000 people residing in Texas, this from the lowest rate ever recorded 6.9 in 2010 and 2011. In 1981, the crude marriage rate was 13.2, the highest rate ever recorded in Texas. Since then, the marriage rate has been generally decreasing.

Many factors may have combined to produce the downward trend in crude marriage rates recorded in Texas since 1981. One very important factor is change in age structure of the population. If a population has a high percentage of young people in their early twenties, the prime marrying years, a higher crude marriage rate can be expected. If the proportion of people in this age group declines, so too will the marriage rate. In 1981, 9.6% of the Texas population was age 20-24; by 1994 this figure had fallen to 7.9% and to 7.2% in 2012.

Another factor is the trend toward postponement of marriage. In 1970, 40% of the women getting married were 15 to 19 years of age. This percentage has consistently decreased. In 2012, only 6.0% of women getting married were 15 to 19 years of age. The percentage of women 20 to 24 getting married between 1970 and 2012 has dropped by 8.5%. However, the percentage of women aged 25 to 29 increased from 9.0% in 1970 to 24.3% in 2012. The figures for men followed the same trend. The difference being that for men the dramatic decrease since 1970 was for ages 20 to 24 at 24.0%, and the increase for ages 30 to 34 is at 11.1%. This trend further indicates a major change in social behavior.

Research indicates that many young adults are opting to cohabitate prior to, or rather than, getting married. This is a trend that continues to rise. As more adults choose to begin their relationships with cohabitation, the marriage rates are likely to continue to drop. This trend has been documented by numerous demographers. According to a study published in 2012:

"For women, there was a continued decrease in the percentage currently married for the first time - and an increase in the percent currently cohabiting - in 2006-2010 compared with earlier years. For men, there was also an increase in the percentage unmarried and in the percentage currently cohabiting between 2002 and 2006-2010. Another trend is an increase in the age at first marriage for women and men, with men continuing to marry for the first time at older ages than women....Premarital cohabitation contributed to the delay in first marriage for both women and men."1

In 2012, females continued to get married at an earlier age than males, with an average age difference of 2.3 years. Although the number of males (80,351) and females (89,172) getting married between the ages of 20 and 29 was different, a gender difference in younger members of the cohort (all people married in a given time period) was even more clearly shown. Females under age 20 made up 6.0% of marriages in 2012, whereas males under 20 made up 2.6%.

Figure 24

Divorce Trends: 1970-2012

There were 80,030 divorces reported to the Vital Statistics Unit in 2012, an slight increase of 1.3% from the 79,024 divorces reported for 2011. Since 1970, the first year of reliable reporting, the number of Texas divorces rose consistently and rapidly until a peak was reached in 1981 with 101,856 divorces. This was nearly twice the number of divorces (51,530) reported for 1970. Since 1982, the annual number of divorces has remained below the 1981 high mark and is generally declining with a slight increase in the last two years.

Crude divorce rates have followed the same pattern as the divorce numbers. Rates rose steadily from 1970 to 1981, although not as rapidly as the number of divorces. After 1981, the divorce rate fell consistently through 1989, rose again until 1992, and has continued to decline since that year. The crude divorce rate for 2012 was 3.1 per 1,000 residents.

For men, the majority (47.0 percent) of divorces occurred in the 30-44 age group, while for women the majority (48.2 percent) were in the 25-39 age group. In 2012, 43.8 percent of divorced males were between 25 and 39 years of age. Teenage men represented 0.1 percent and teenage women 0.4 percent of people divorced in Texas in 2012.

Figure 25

Divorce/Marriage Ratio

A frequently asked question is: "The number of divorces last year was just about half the number of marriages. Does that mean that one half of last years marriages will end in divorce?" The answer is no. The divorce/marriage ratio for a particular year tells us almost nothing about what will transpire during the lifespan of the members of that year's marriage cohort (all people married in a given time period). The available data are not sufficient to develop statistical predictions for the future of a recent marriage cohort.

Children Affected by Divorce

Divorce affected the lives of 62,196 children under 18 years of age in 2012. One measure commonly used to document the involvement of children in divorce is the average number of children per divorce decree. For Texas, the 2012 average was 0.8 children per divorce. However, this figure can be misleading. It tends to leave the impression that almost all divorces involve children. The raw numbers tell a different story. A little more than half (54.4%) of the 2012 divorces for which the number of children was known, involved no children. Less than one quarter (21.7%) of the divorces affected one child only. The remaining 23.9% of 2012 divorces involved two or more children.


1. Copen, CE, Daniels K, Vespa J, Mosher WD. "First Marriages in the United States: Data From the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth." National Health Statistics Reports. No. 49 Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012.

2012 Annual Report Table of Contents

Annual Reports for Other Years

Center for Health Statistics

Last updated August 13, 2015