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Comparing State and National Divorce Rates


Every year the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) survey’s the United States population, collecting data and creating analytical reports based on that data. From that data they are able to determine how many divorces have occurred in a single year and report that number. Because of the pandemic, the ACS was not able to collect accurate data and therefore decided not to release their one-year report for 2020. Instead, the ACS created a report based on estimates. For this reason, there is no accurate data on the divorce trends nationwide for the year 2020. Data for 2021 is still being collected and analyzed, so much has not yet been released. The last year of accurate data is 2019.

The ACS calculates trends by taking the number of women divorced in a particular year and dividing that number by the number of women aged 15 or older. Then that number is multiplied by 1000. Multiplying the number by 1000 tells us how many women out of 1,000 women got divorced. If the national trend is 9.3, then that means that 9.3 of every 1,000 women aged 15 years or older were divorced in that year. It can be very confusing and complicated. The main point is that they use this same calculation every year and are able to compare the divorce trends of the United States nationally with the divorce trends in each particular state. That way they can see which states are statistically higher, lower, or the same as the national statistic.

Using the calculation previously explained, the ACS reported that the national divorce rate in 2019 was 7.6. In Colorado, the divorce rate in 2019 was 7.9. This indicates that statistically, there is practically no difference. Colorado is right in line with the national trend.

Another interesting trend to look at is that before the pandemic, divorces seemed to be decreasing. According to the United States Census Bureau, divorce rates in the United States have decreased from 2009-2019. The same can be said about Colorado divorce rates. The national divorce rate in 2009 was 9.7. The national divorce rate has decreased by 2.1, which is significant. In Colorado, the divorce rate in 2009 was 9.4. Again, the Colorado divorce rate is not significantly different from the national divorce rate. Colorado seems to follow closely with what the trends are for the entire nation.

Although there are no accurate reports from the ACS on divorce trends for 2020 or 2021, there are still Colorado reports on how many divorces were filed in Colorado. Colorado divorce information can be gathered from the Colorado Judicial Branch as they keep track of the number of divorces filed in the district courts throughout Colorado. Because the data is collected differently from the ACS, there is a report for the number of divorces in Colorado for the years 2020 and 2021. The Colorado Judicial Branch also does not calculate the divorce rates like the ACS; they only report the number of divorces filed.

The Colorado Judicial Branch reported that in 2019, 24,410 people filed for divorce in Colorado. In 2020, 22,592 people filed for divorce, while in 2021, 23,273 people filed for divorce. So for Colorado, divorce decreased in 2020 and then slightly increased in 2021. Yet 2021 divorces were still less than 2019.

If Colorado trends continued to be similar to national trends, then this could indicate that divorce decreased on a national level in 2020 and then slightly increased in 2021. We will just have to wait and see what the 2021 ACS report says.

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