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Marriage & Divorce



There were 176,768 marriages reported to the Texas Vital Statistics Unit (VSU) in 2005, a decrease of 1,743 compared to 2004 in which there were 178,511 marriages reported. The crude marriage rate decreased from 7.9 marriages per 1,000 residents in 2004 to 7.7 in 2005.

The number of divorces reported to VSU also decreased to 75,980 in 2005 from 81,324 in the previous year. The crude divorce rate of 3.3 divorces per 1,000 residents is lower than the rate of 3.6 divorces per 1,000 residents that was reported in 2004.

Marriage Trends: 1970-2005

In 2005, 176,768 marriages were reported to VSU. This number is down 1.0 percent from the 178,511 marriages reported in 2004. From 1992 to 2005 the number of marriages held fairly steady. The number of marriages reached an all-time high of 210,978 in 1984, after climbing steadily from 152,162 in 1973. After the peak, the number of marriages consistently declined until 1989 when there were 170,964 marriages, the lowest level observed in the 1980's. This downward trend stopped with the 1990 increase to 178,613 marriages.

The 2005 crude marriage rate has decreased again to 7.7 marriages per 1,000 people residing in Texas, and this is 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 7.7% in 2005.

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 2005, only 7.5% of women getting married were 15 to 19 years of age. The percentage of women 20 to 24 getting married between 1970 and 2005 also dropped, but only by 5.8%. However, the percentage of women aged 25 to 29 increased from 9.0% in 1970 to 22.2% in 2005. 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.

According to recent research, many young adults are opting to cohabitate prior to, or rather than, getting married. This is a trend that has continually risen in recent years. 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 in recent years. According to a study published in 2000:

"Between 1960 and 1990, the percent of never-married women ages 25-29 tripled from 10% to 30%...Despite this delay in marriage, young people continue to set up households with the opposite sex. In fact, most of the decline in proportions married by age 25 in the past few decades is offset by entry into cohabitation. Today, there are more than 4 million cohabiting couples in the United States, which is about 8 times the number of couples cohabitating in 1970."1

In 2005, females continued to get married at an earlier age than males, with an average age difference of 2.4 years. Although the number of males (80,159) and females (86,379) getting married between the ages of 20 and 29 was approximately equal, 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 7.6% of marriages in 2005, whereas males under 20 made up 2.9%.



Divorce Trends: 1970-2005

There were 75,980 divorces reported to the Vital Statistics Unit in 2005, a decrease of 6.6% from the 81,324 divorces reported for 2004. 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.

Crude divorce rates have followed the same pattern as the divorce numbers. Rates rose steadily from 1973 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 2005 was 3.3 per 1,000 residents.

For men, the majority (48.5 percent) of divorces occurred in the 30-44 age group, while for women the majority (50.1 percent) were in the 25-39 age group. In 2005, 46.7 percent of divorced males were between 25 and 39 years of age. Teenage men represented 0.2 percent and teenage women 0.8 percent of people divorced in Texas in 2005.



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 58,736 children under 18 in 2005. One measure commonly used to document the involvement of children in divorce is the average number of children per divorce decree. For Texas, the 2005 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. More than half (54.7%) of all 2005 divorces for which the number of children was known, involved no children. Slightly less than one quarter (21.8%) of the divorces affected one child only. The remaining 23.5% of 2005 divorces involved two or more children.


1. Brown, Susan L. "Union Transitions Among Cohabitors: The Significance of Relationship Assessments and Expectations." Journal of Marriage and the Family. 62 (August 2000): 833-846.

2005 Annual Report Table of Contents
Annual Reports for Other Years
Center for Health Statistics


Last updated July 15, 2010