2011 Marriage and Divorce
Beginning with 2009 data, new systems were implemented for recording marriages and divorces in Texas.
In 2011, there were 177,219 marriages reported to the Texas Vital Statistics Unit (VSU), an increase of 3,048 compared to 2010 in which there were 174,171 marriages reported. The crude marriage rate of 6.9 marriages per 1,000 residents in 2010 stayed level in 2011 at 6.9.
The number of divorces reported to VSU decreased to 79,024 in 2011 from 82,098 in the previous year. The crude divorce rate of 3.1 divorces per 1,000 residents decreased from 3.3 in 2010.
Marriage Trends: 1970-2011
In 2011, 177,219 marriages were reported to VSU. This number is up 1.8 percent from the 174,171 marriages reported in 2010. 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. Since then, 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. Since 2001, the number of marriages has been generally decreasing, with some fluctuation between 2005-2010 and a leveling between 2010-2011.
The 2011 crude marriage rate stayed at 6.9 marriages per 1,000 people residing in Texas, and this has tied with the lowest rate ever recorded since reporting of marriages to Vital Statistics began in 1968. In 1981, the crude marriage rate was 13.2, the highest level ever recorded. Since 1981, 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 7.1% in 2011.
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 2011, only 6.6% of women getting married were 15 to 19 years of age. The percentage of women 20 to 24 getting married between 1970 and 2011 also dropped, but only by 8.0%. However, the percentage of women aged 25 to 29 increased from 9.0% in 1970 to 23.9% in 2011. The figures for men followed the same trend. The difference being that for men the dramatic decrease was for ages 20 to 24, and the dramatic increase was for ages 30 to 34. 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 2011, 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 (78,150) and females (85,819) 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 6.6% of marriages in 2011, whereas males under 20 made up 2.8%.
Divorce Trends: 1970-2011
There were 79,024 divorces reported to the Vital Statistics Unit in 2011, a decrease of 3.7% from the 82,098 divorces reported for 2010. 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 seems to be in the decline.
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 2011 was 3.1 per 1,000 residents.
For men, the majority (47.4 percent) of divorces occurred in the 30-44 age group, while for women the majority (48.7 percent) were in the 25-39 age group. In 2011, 44.5 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 2011.
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 61,728 children under 18 years of age in 2011. One measure commonly used to document the involvement of children in divorce is the average number of children per divorce decree. For Texas, the 2011 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 (54.3%) of the 2011 divorces for which the number of children was known, involved no children. Less than one quarter (21.6%) of the divorces affected one child only. The remaining 24.1% of 2011 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.