FARGO — North Dakotans have proven better than most of the country when it comes to staying together, according to U.S. Census Bureau data about marriage and divorce rates.
The Peace Garden State had the lowest rate of divorce in the U.S. in 2018, clocking in 4.7 divorces for every 1,000 women ages 15 and older, according to statistics released Feb. 20. That’s compared to the national rate of 7.7 per 1,000 women and North Dakota’s rate of 6 in 2008.
The U.S. had divorce rate of 10.5 in 2008.
North Dakota also ranked high for marriage in 2018, taking the No. 5 spot behind Utah (23.1), Wyoming (22.9), Idaho (22.6) and Washington D.C. (22.3). For every 1,000 women in North Dakota, 21.2 were married in 2018, slightly down from 23.9 in 2008, according to the Census.
Minnesota ranked in the middle of the nation in 2018 with a rate of 16.9 for marriage and 7.1 for divorce, both down from the 2008 rates of 18 and 9.3, respectively.
South Dakota had the second-highest rate for divorce in 2018 with 12.1, behind Arkansas' rate of 13. South Dakota's rate was up from 8.9 in 2008.
The state ranked 19th for marriage with a rate of 18, slightly up from the 2008 rate of 17.2
Maine and Connecticut had the lowest rate of marriage with 13.2 in 2018.
North Dakota has a history of higher rates of marriage and lower rates of divorce than the rest of the nation, said Sean Brotherson, a North Dakota State University professor who studies marriage and rural families. North Dakotans tend to place more value on marriage as an institution, he said.
“For example, there’s a stronger emphasis in the culture of North Dakota on stable family relationships and more traditional values about marriage,” he said.
Brotherson noted people in the U.S. are waiting until they are older to marry in an effort to become more financially sound. Overall, marriage and divorce rates slipped in the U.S. from 2008 to 2018, though divorce rates appear to have dropped faster than marriage rates. Nationally, 16.6 per 1,000 U.S. women were married in 2018, down from 17.9 for 2008.
He noticed patterns in North Dakota that may be tied to high rates of marriage, including high percentages of high school graduates and more people going to college.
The economy also has been relatively strong compared to the rest of the country over the last decade, despite several ups and downs, Brotherson said. That may have helped make the decision to marry easier, he said.
“When people are in more stable places in their life relative to education or job or income, then they're more likely to enter into marriage,” he said. “If people are in a stronger position economically, they're more likely to say, ‘OK, I feel like financially it's a good time or I'm not going to be at risk if I enter into marriage.’”
The Census restricted its data to women to “provide a digestible look at trends in marriage and divorce,” it said in a news release.
“Historically, women’s data have often been presented when a choice needs to be made,” the Census said. “Research shows that they were more often reporting the data for themselves and reporting more accurately.”