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Report Number ACS-13
Diana B. Elliott and Tavia Simmons
Component ID: #ti1470209401

Marriage, divorce, and widowhood are important events in the lives of many adults in the United States. Marital events often signify important transitions into adulthood and family life. Researchers, policy makers, and the general public are interested in up-to-date information about the demographic characteristics of those with recent marital events because they reveal a great deal about family formation patterns nationwide.

This report describes marriage, divorce, and widowhood events in the United States using data collected in the 2009 American Community Survey (ACS). Beginning in 2008, questions about marital events were added to the ACS to collect national- and state-level marriage and divorce data. The main reason for the addition of these questions was the diminished quality of vital statistics data on marriage and divorce. With these questions, the ACS now provides a more complete picture of the state of marriage, divorce, and widowhood in the United States.

Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau released a working paper that compared the new marital events data from the 2008 ACS with vital statistics data. The working paper demonstrated that the survey-based marital events data collected on the ACS are comparable to administrative records-based data collected by vital statistics.1 This report moves the analysis of the ACS data beyond methodological comparisons by profiling the marital events of Americans and describing the demographics of the ever-married population in 2009. This report features:

  • Marriage, divorce, and widowhood rates for men and women for the nation and states.
  • Demographic characteristics of adults who experienced a marital event.
  • Age distributions of men’s and women’s first marriages compared with historical data from vital statistics.
  • A profile of children who live with a parent who divorced in the last year.
  • Characteristics of married couples by their durations of marriage.2
  • age-adjusted durations of first and second marriages for women by state.

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1 Elliott, Diana B., Simmons, Tavia, and Jamie M. Lewis. 2010. “Evaluation of the Marital Events Items on the ACS.” <www.census.gov/library/working-papers/2010/demo/elliott-08.html>.
2 In this report, only married couples of the opposite sex are shown in the tables.

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