Thursday, February 17, 2005

Half of All Marriages End in Divorce?

Once, when trying to figure out how to fix our leaky toilet, I disovered the website "clear instructions on how to do (just about) anything." It helped!

It even tells you, unfortunately, "how to get a divorce." Their very first line? "It has been estimated that about half of all marriages end in divorce."

There's just one problem with that statistic, which is often quoted: it's not true. Thomas Sowell explains:

In a given year, the number of divorces may well be half as large as the number of marriages that year, but this is comparing apples and oranges. The marriages being counted are only those marriages taking place within the given year, while the divorces that year are from marriages that took place over a period of decades. To say that half of all marriages end in divorce, based on such statistics, would be like saying that half the population died last year if deaths were half as large as births. Just as most people were neither born nor died last year, so most marriages did not begin or end last year. Yet, on the basis of such gross misconceptions of statistics, the anointed not only assume airs of superiority but claim the right to shape public policy.

From Thomas Sowell's superb The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulations as a Basis for Social Policy, p. 59.