The national marriage and divorce rates declined between 2008 and 2018, but the rates varied sharply between states, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from American Community Surveys.
Arkansas led the nation in divorce rate in 2018 at 13%, down from 14% in 2008. Arkansas’ divorce rate was 6% higher than the national average. Compared to neighboring states, Arkansas’ divorce rates were 4% higher than Missouri, 2.2% higher than Oklahoma, 4.6% higher than Texas, nearly 4% more than Tennessee and 4.3% higher than Mississippi
South Dakota had the second-highest divorce rate in 2018 at 12.1%.
A survey conducted across North America during the 10-year period of the Census report found three leading causes for divorces are basic incompatibility (43%), infidelity (28%) and money issues (22%). The study found emotional or physical abuse accounted for 5.8% of divorces, while parenting disagreements and substance abuse each caused 5% of the divorces.
The report said basic incompatibility can be caused by multiple things but the leading culprit is a lack of communication skills necessary to navigate the challenges that can arise during marriage.
A 2019 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found a “lack of commitment” to be the leading cause of divorce. This lack of commitment often led to extra-marital affairs or just complacency toward the partner. Other large factors uncovered in the survey were “too much conflict and arguing,” which the group said got worse over time. Another big reason was the belief the partners “married too young,” which the researchers said was interesting because the average marrying age has increased dramatically in the past few decades.
Pew Research Center said in 1960, 59% of people ages 18-29 were married. In 2010, that number dropped to 20%. In 2011, the average age for a man to marry was 28.7 years and 26.5 years for a woman. Census Bureau data said in 2019 the average marrying age for U.S. men was 29.5 years and 27.4 years for women.
Arkansas has one of the youngest average ages to marry in the U.S, according to Census Bureau data. At 24.8 years for women and 26.3 years for men, Arkansas newlyweds are only slightly older than those in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Oklahoma.
Washington, D.C. has the oldest brides at age 29.8 years with grooms averaging 30.6 years. Other states in the Northeast tend to have the oldest marrying age at 28 for women and 29 for men.
The Census Bureau report also ranked states by their marriage rates between 2008 and 2018. Arkansas ranked No. 20 with a marriage rate of 17.9% in 2018, down from 24.5% in 2008. Arkansas also had one of the widest swings in marriage rates compared to the other 49 states and Puerto Rico. Nebraska was the only state to have seen a sharper decline in marriage rates over the decade.
The report also found Utah had the highest marriage rates at 23.1% in 2018, which increased from 16.6% in 2008. Conversely, Maine and Connecticut had among the lowest marriage rates in 2018 at 16.4% and 15.6%, respectively.
Puerto Rico has the lowest marriage rates at 6.9% in 2018, falling from 10.9% in 2008. The divorce rates in Puerto Rico fell to 4.2% in 2018 from 9.7% in 2008, according to the data.
Census Bureau data said the rates were calculated based on the number of women who were married or divorced within the last year, per 1,000 women aged 15 and over.