Measuring Marriage and Divorce at the County Level

Wendy D. Manning (PI)
Krista K. Payne

Measuring Marriage and Divorce at the County Level (NICHD R03)

Even though marriage and divorce in the United States have been shifting, the vital statistics data infrastructure to accumulate and distribute marriage and divorce data has not kept pace.  The deterioration and defunding of the marriage and divorce vital statistics systems means there is limited capacity to understand geographic variation in marriage and divorce.   A limitation of the American Community Survey is that it cannot provide a single point estimate of marriage and divorce for all counties or county equivalents, and this is especially problematic in rural areas. There is no central depository of all county-level marriage and divorce data.  The call for local area family data and assessments of data quality has come from several constituent groups. To begin to fill this critical gap, we propose to provide a data resource to the research community by generating a 2010 county-level marriage and divorce database.  This comprehensive database will ensure inclusion of rural areas.  The secondary goals are to analyze change in county-level marriage and divorce from 2000 to 2010, assess the quality of ACS data in counties where county-level data are available, and examine spatial variation in patterns of marriage and divorce by linking additional county level data.  This innovative project fits squarely with the PDB mission to enhance knowledge and data availability on families and households. The application is consistent with the purpose of the R03 mechanism and will offer a resource to a multidisciplinary set of researchers.


Manning, Wendy D. and Krista K. Payne. “Counting Marriages and Divorces: Comparisons of 2010 Marriage and Divorce Rates Across Counties and States.” Paper presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the Population Association of America, San Diego, CA, April 30-May 2.