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Marital Success: Why Massachusetts Has One of the Lowest Divorce Rates in the Country

Marriage. It’s a simple concept, in theory. Two people who love each other make a commitment, say some vows, sign a paper, and prepare to live happily ever after in marital bliss. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The introduction of stressors (children, job changes/loss, the death of parents, financial struggles, medical issues, accidents, etc.) takes a toll on relationships. As a result, 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in a not-so-happily ever after.

Residents of Massachusetts are not immune to these stressors, but the divorce rate among people in the state is notably lower than many other states in the country. Why?

Is it the abundance of quality seafood, or perhaps the stunning fall leaves that help keeps couples happy? Those factors may help a little, but in a breakdown of numbers we learn a few things that sets the Bay state apart from the rest.

They Get Married Older

There is a significant discrepancy in marrying age between Massachusetts and states with a higher divorce rate. Half of the men in New York and Massachusetts were older than 30 when they married for the first time; women were 28.  States with a younger marrying age, like Arkansas (ages 26 for men and 24 for women), have a higher divorce rate. In fact, Arkansas has the highest rate of divorce at 23.4 out of every 1,000 marriages ending in divorce. Idaho, which also ranks in the top 5 for lowest wedding ages has the second highest divorce rate at 21.9 per 1000.

According to Psychology Today, divorce is 50 percent less likely if both partners are over 25 when they get married. The age factor is likely attributed to maturity, financial stability, and experience in the world of relationships. It’s important to note that the study also showed that people who got married too “late” were more likely to get divorced as well. The sweet spot seems to be between the ages of 28 and 32.

Average Age of Marriage by State – Male & Female


They Get Married Fewer Times

Statistically, people who have been married multiple times are more likely to get divorced. Arkansas and Oklahoma, both states in the top 5 for highest divorce rates, according to Pew Research also have higher than average rates of remarriages. In both states roughly, 10 percent of the ever-married adults had been married three or more times. In Massachusetts, that number is far lower, at just 2 percent.

Psychology Today noted that 67% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. The reasons for the higher divorce rate are varied and may include less stabilization (many second and third marriages do not result in children), independence, emotional insecurity, or simply jumping into a new marriage too quickly.

% of States Residents That Get Married More Than Once


There May Be a Political Correlation

The numbers show an odd political discrepancy regarding divorce rates. In theory, red states (more religious and/or conservative) should have the lowest divorce rates in the country. However, recent polls show that states like Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama all rank among states with the highest divorce rates, yet they were among the states most opposed to gay marriage. Whereas Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey rank among states with the most support for same-sex marriage and have some of the lowest divorce rates.

This trend isn’t always the case, as New Hampshire which overwhelmingly voted in support of same-sex marriage (75 percent) and Nevada (60 percent) have higher divorce rates than average. (PRRI)

Early after states began approving same-sex marriages, researchers suggested that same-sex marriages had a lower divorce rate, however, The Washington Post suggests that the statistic is erroneous based on a small calculation that assumed all same-sex couples had been married for the same amount of time. With the numbers adjusted, the divorce rate is very close to those in traditional marriages.

Financial Matters

Many people associate financial instability with higher divorce rates, and that may be true to some degree. Four of the five states with the lowest income (Washington Post) also have above average divorce rates. Those states include Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arkansas. Louisiana falls in the bottom five for annual household income but also has a lower divorce rate than average.

Incidentally, of the states with the five highest incomes, three of those states also have higher than average divorce rates. Massachusetts, which has the fifth highest average income is the only state in the top five to have divorce rates that fall below the average and Maryland falls right in line with the average at 2.7 divorces per 1,000 married couples.

So, what does Massachusetts have that the other states are missing? The numbers suggest it’s a little bit of a few things: older marrying age, fewer re-marriages, more stable finances, and perhaps some politics.

Whatever the reason, if you are enjoying the married life, don’t get discouraged. The divorce rate is still near the lowest point it has been in decades, according to Time.

Median Household Income Per State