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Census may no longer gather information about divorce rates

Will the divorce rate in the United States shoot up, plummet or stay relatively the same in our future? It may soon be difficult for citizens of the United States, including New York, to get an answer to that question. The Census Bureau has recently come up with a plan that may make it more difficult to determine whether the family law parameters are changing or not.

The Census Bureau may stop asking questions on marriage, divorce, and families in its surveys. Hence, debates on family law issues such as same-sex marriage and divorce may not appear in future statistics. Many economists rely on the American Community surveys to learn about family law trends. These surveys ask people about their marital status, their number of children, whether they have been divorced in recent times and other relevant questions.

These answers are necessary for demographers to track divorce and marriage rates by age, race, gender and education. The data has revealed many important trends, such as the sharp rise in the differences in divorce patterns between the poor and the rich, the increase in the divorce rate amongst the elderly Americans and the fall in the divorce ratio among the younger generation.

Such surveys have also brought into sharp focus the adoption of same-sex marriages in many states. It is not very difficult to track a divorce or a marriage, as every divorce requires an individual to make a trip to the county hall or courthouse to file the relevant documents. This paper trail was the lifeline for many academicians. Until the 1990s, the federal government gathered the relevant data from these divorce and marriage statistics.

However, in 1996, the National Center for Health Statistics stopped collecting the data. As such, for any individual who was married or divorced after that year, the data is no longer be available.

Source: The New York Times, “Census Bureau’s Plan to Cut Marriage and Divorce Questions Has Academics Up in Arms,” Justin Wolfers, Dec. 31, 2014

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