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What types of unions have the highest rates of divorce?

May 19th, 2011

(An old quiz from a Ruth Institute newsletter. How will this be helpful for children of SSM?)

Same sex couples have had the legal right to form domestic partnerships in several European countries.  Denmark was the first to introduce registered partnerships, in 1989. Norway was second, in 1993, then Sweden in 1995. Data from 2 of these landmark countries, Norway and Sweden, as well as California,  have been studied enough to answer this question:

What types of unions have the highest rates of divorce?

  • Opposite sex married couples: men and women are so different, it is a wonder they ever stay married.
  • Male unions: men are naturally less committed, and less monogamous, so their partnerships don’t endure.
  • Female unions: women get so emotionally distraught over things. A union of two women, without any male counter-balancing their roller-coaster, is very unstable.

Hint: the answer is the same in all three countries!

Answer:

Female unions seem to have the highest divorce rates, followed by male unions, followed by opposite sex unions.

“For Sweden, the divorce risk for partnerships of men is 50% higher than the risk for heterosexual marriages, and that the divorce risk for female partnerships is nearly double that for men.”

“For Norway, divorce risks are 77% higher in lesbian partnerships than in those of gay men.”  (The Norwegian data did not include a comparison with opposite sex couples.)

In California, the data is collected a little differently. The study looks at couples who describe themselves as partners, whether same sex or opposite sex. The study asks the question, how likely is it that these couples live in the same household five years later. Male couples were only 30% as likely, while female couples were less that 25% as likely, as heterosexual married couples, to be residing in the same household for five years.

The only contradictory data I have found to this pattern is from the Netherlands. In the Dutch data, same sex couples have a 3.15 times greater dissolution rate than opposite sex cohabiting couples, and a 3.15 x 3.66 or 11.5 times greater dissolution rate than opposite married couples. But, female couples seem to be more stable than male couples.

Please note one other thing: gender matters.  The whole premise of same sex marriage is that marriage can, and should be, gender neutral.  Gender should be irrelevant for marriage, for parenting and for sex itself.  But in these data, male and female couples behave differently.  Hence, gender is still a relevant characteristic, even in situations that offer legal and cultural support for same sex unions.

Andersson, Gunnar, Turid Noack, Ane Seierstad, and Harald Weedon-Fekjaer, “The Demographics of Same Sex Marriages in Norway and Sweden,” Demography Vol 43, No. 1 (February 2006) 79-98.

Gates, Gary, “Characteristics and Predictors of Coresidential Stability among Couples,” California Center for Population Research, Working Paper, CCPR-069-06, December 2006.

Kalmijn, Matthijs, Anneke Loeve, and Dorien Manting, “Income Dynamics in Couples and the Dissolution of Marriage and Cohabitation.”  Demography, Vol. 44, No. 1, Feb 2007: 159-179.

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  1. Will Fisher
    May 20th, 2011 at 03:47 | #1

    Could you post the links to the original study, please? Did the studies compare hetero marriages to gay co-habitation?

  2. Marty
    May 20th, 2011 at 05:48 | #2

    Betsy, can you provide links for your citations? Thanks!

  3. Betsy
    May 20th, 2011 at 11:14 | #3

    Sorry, there was a page 2 to the word doc with this quiz on it, and I missed it. Please see one additional paragraph and the citations above.

  4. May 20th, 2011 at 16:26 | #4

    Here is the link for Gary Gates’ paper on California: http://papers.ccpr.ucla.edu/papers/PWP-CCPR-2006-069/PWP-CCPR-2006-069.pdf

    “Demography” is the journal of the American population association. It is only available to members on-line, as far as I can tell. You would have to go to a university library to get it, (like I did.)

  5. Marty
    May 21st, 2011 at 06:47 | #5

    Awesome thanks Ladies!

  6. May 24th, 2011 at 14:53 | #6

    Be careful here, Dr. J. That same Gary Gates paper says that both partners being African-American is negatively correlated with staying together. Same as when both partners are Asian/Pacific Islander. (pages 14-15)

    If you’re going to be consistent with your reasoning, then, you’d end up saying something like, “Please note one other thing: race matters. In these data, African-American couples behave differently. Hence, race is still a relevant characteristic in marriage, even in situations that offer legal and cultural support for such unions.”

    I’m certain you don’t believe that, so you’d best rethink your logic.

  7. Sean
    May 24th, 2011 at 16:18 | #7

    Christians are more likely to divorce than Atheists…..should they be prohibited from marrying then?

  8. Betsy
    May 24th, 2011 at 16:23 | #8

    They’re probably also more likely to marry. What’s your point and where’s your study?

  9. Betsy
    May 24th, 2011 at 16:26 | #9

    @Rob Tisinai
    Dr. J is in Hong Kong just now, fyi.

  10. May 24th, 2011 at 22:28 | #10

    Thanks Betsy. I see that she didn’t author the article so I shouldn’t have directed my comments to her.

  11. John
    May 24th, 2011 at 22:39 | #11

    @Betsy, Gate’s paper also states on page 17:

    One notable difference between same-sex and different-sex couples involves the availability of the legal and social supports associated with marriage. The finding that same-sex couples have improved odds of being in a long-term duration relationships in states with sexual orientation anti-discrimination states provides fairly strong evidence of a link between supportive public policies and stability for same-sex couple relationships. Combine this with the general finding that all couples share similar predictors associated with long-term duration and it seems reasonable to conclude that, as more states enact legislation that formally recognizes same-sex couples, they will likely share in the well-documented benefits associated with marriage.

    Did you just happen to miss this, or did you deliberately ignore it since it goes against your general argument against marriage equality?

  12. John Noe
    May 26th, 2011 at 18:12 | #12

    This is not surprising because as has also been noted, SS couples do not sexually stay with each other. There have been blogs showing that the vast majority of SS couple have sex outside of their relationship.
    They view their SS partner as a sex toy. If it no longer sexually works then get a divorce. I am sure that most opposite sex couples do not view their partner as a sex toy unless they are swingers.

  13. John
    May 27th, 2011 at 06:41 | #13

    John Noe :There have been blogs showing that the vast majority of SS couple have sex outside of their relationship.

    Citations, please.

    The assertion that the majority of partners in same-gender couples view their partners merely as sex toys is repulsive.

  14. John Noe
    May 27th, 2011 at 15:12 | #14

    The citations were found on NOM’s website. Upon reading those blogs it referred to other blogs on the internet.

  15. May 29th, 2011 at 08:33 | #15

    John Noe :
    This is not surprising because as has also been noted, SS couples do not sexually stay with each other. There have been blogs showing that the vast majority of SS couple have sex outside of their relationship.
    They view their SS partner as a sex toy. If it no longer sexually works then get a divorce. I am sure that most opposite sex couples do not view their partner as a sex toy unless they are swingers.

    This is ridiculous on so many levels.

    1. There have been blogs showing that the vast majority of humans are alien invaders, too. Do you take them at their word?

    2. To make a generalization that same-sex couples see each other as sex toys is just plain stupid. Do you think they’d be fighting so hard to get married if that were the case?

    3. You say they get tired of each other sexually and then, divorce. Umh, they’d have to, you know, be universally allowed to GET MARRIED FIRST before they could get divorced.

    4. I am also sure that most straight couples do not see each other as sex toys. Perhaps this is why so many men have affairs. Like Newt Gingrich, currently considering a presidential run on the Republican ticket. He left wife number one to marry a sex toy, and we know how that went. Now he’s on sex toy number two also known as wife number three.

  16. John Noe
    May 30th, 2011 at 17:51 | #16

    Emma: If my argument is ridiculous, then how do you explain the blogs that I read put out by homosexuals on their own websites claiming that they are having sex outside of their partners and would drop their partner if they decided to do so.

    I did not make this up but read this on a pro homosexual website.

  17. John
    May 31st, 2011 at 02:52 | #17

    John Noe :

    Emma: If my argument is ridiculous, then how do you explain the blogs that I read put out by homosexuals on their own websites claiming that they are having sex outside of their partners and would drop their partner if they decided to do so.

    I did not make this up but read this on a pro homosexual website.

    If your argument is sound, then the vast majority of straight, married men wish to cheat on their spouses. I have seen straight, married men make this comment on message boards.

    If your argument is sound, then the vast majority of straight men wish to rape every woman they see. I have seen straight men make this comment on message boards.

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