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What nationality has the highest divorce rate?

Divorce Rates by Country in 2023

Marriage may be a universal institution, but divorce rates can vary dramatically from one country to another. Cultural, legal, and social factors all play a part in shaping these statistics.

In this article, we’ll explore the countries with the highest divorce rates and examine the underlying reasons behind these trends. Prepare to challenge your assumptions about love, commitment, and the modern world!

Factors Contributing to High Divorce Rates

Understanding the factors that contribute to high divorce rates can provide valuable insights into the complexities of relationships and their success across different cultures and societies.

Let’s take a look into the cultural, socioeconomic, and legal aspects that influence divorce rates around the world.

Culture plays a significant role in the way relationships are perceived, maintained, and dissolved. Attitudes towards marriage and divorce differ across cultures, which can impact the divorce rates in each country. For instance, some societies may place a strong emphasis on the sanctity of marriage, making it less socially acceptable to divorce. On the other hand, other cultures may be more open to the concept of divorce and view it as a normal part of life, which could lead to higher divorce rates.

Additionally, the prevalence of certain practices like arranged marriages or marrying at a young age can also influence divorce rates. In societies where these practices are common, couples may find themselves incompatible over time, leading to the dissolution of their marriages.

Socioeconomic factors play a critical role in determining the stability of a marriage. Financial difficulties, unemployment, and income disparities can create stress within a relationship, leading to conflicts and, in some cases, divorce. Furthermore, education levels can impact divorce rates, with studies suggesting that couples with higher levels of education tend to have lower rates of divorce due to better communication and problem-solving skills.

Access to resources and support systems also affects divorce rates. Couples who have limited access to mental health services, relationship counseling, or community support may struggle to resolve conflicts, leading to the breakdown of their marriages.

The legal frameworks and policies of each country can also contribute to their respective divorce rates. In countries with more lenient divorce laws and processes, couples may find it easier to end their marriages, leading to higher divorce rates. Conversely, countries with more stringent divorce regulations may see lower divorce rates due to the difficulties and barriers associated with legally dissolving a marriage.

How to Calculate Divorce Rate

Calculating divorce rates can be done in different ways, but one of the easiest methods is using census data. You can get the crude divorce rate by dividing the number of divorces in a year by the total population. This rate is usually expressed as a number per 1000 people. For instance, if there were 500 divorces in a year in a nation with 100,000 people, the divorce rate would be five divorces per 1,000 residents.

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Divorce Rates by Country 2023

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Marriage is an event that bonds two (or, rarely, more) people together for life, creating a legal, cultural, and/or religious connection between them that impacts everything from their name and address to their future family. Marriage is a cultural universal, an institution so fundamental to the human experience that there are no known examples of a society that functions without it. People marry for many reasons, including love, companionship, the desire to build a family, financial stability, social status, and religious fulfillment, and in nearly every case the marriage is considered a watershed event in the participants’ lives.

Divorce and its causes

Sometimes, however, the bonds of marriage break. According to the United States’ National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 4-5 million people get married every year in the U.S. . and approximately 42-53% of those marriages eventually end in divorce.

Divorce has many possible causes, including infidelity, financial problems, loss of intimacy, substance abuse, domestic abuse, lack of commitment, moral or religious differences, and simply growing apart. Whatever the reason, divorce is not a uniquely American scenario. Divorce happens all over the world—in fact, it may be every bit as universal as marriage itself.

How to calculate divorce rate

Divorce rates can be calculated multiple ways, but one of the simplest methods utilizes census data. Dividing the number of divorces in a given year by total population yields the crude divorce rate. This metric is typically expressed as a number per 1000 people. For example, if 100,000 people lived in a nation and there were 500 divorces in a year, the divorce rate would be five divorces per 1,000 residents.

Top 13 Countries with the Highest Divorce Rates (annually, per 1000 people)*

*Data is most recent available per country. 2018-China; 2019-Cuba; all others 2020-21

  1. Maldives — 5.52
  2. Kazakhstan — 4.6
  3. Russia — 3.9
  4. Belarus (tie) — 3.7
  5. Belgium (tie) — 3.7
  6. Moldova — 3.3
  7. China — 3.2
  8. Cuba — 2.9
  9. Ukraine — 2.88
  10. Denmark (tie) — 2.7
  11. Latvia (tie) — 2.7
  12. Lithuania (tie) — 2.7
  13. United States (tie) — 2.7
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According to data from the United Nations and other sources, the country with the highest divorce rate in the world in 2020 was the Maldives, which recorded 2984 divorces against a population of 540,544, resulting in a divorce rate of 5.52 per 1000 people. This is actually a notable step down from the country’s widely publicized rate of 10.97 in 2002, which earned the country a Guinness World Record.

Why are divorces so frequent in the Maldives? One common explanation is that the island nation’s citizens frown upon physical relations outside of marriage, but both marriages and divorces are quite easy to obtain, so they marry quickly and divorce with minimal complication if the relationship fails. What’s more, a cultural shift is currently taking place in the Maldives, with women becoming more empowered and more able to fend for themselves financially, enabling them to leave marriages that aren’t working.

The former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan endured the second-highest divorce rate in the world in 2020, with 4.6 divorces for every 1000 people. Close behind are Russia (3.9), Belgium (3.7), and Belarus (3.7). The United States lands in a four-way tie for spots 9-12 on the list, with an annual divorce rate of 2.7 per 1000 people. In the U.S., Nevada has the highest divorce rate of any state at 14%.

The effect of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic on divorce rates

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-21 had a remarkable impact on nearly every aspect of everyday life, including rates of marriage and divorce. Overall, marriage rates dropped significantly in 2020, largely due to pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions on public gatherings. What’s more, divorce rates also dropped significantly, from .2 to .4 points in most cases, in nearly every country in the world.

For example, Slovenia’s divorce rate dropped from 1.2 in 2019 to .8 in 2020. Similarly, Hungary dropped from 1.8 to 1.5, Seychelles went from 1.9 to 1.7, and the Dominican Republic plummeted from 2.5 to 1.2. Oddly, Denmark, considered one of the top 10 countries to live in, reversed the trend and saw its divorce rate leap from 1.8 to 2.7 during the 2020 pandemic.

Top 12 Countries with the Lowest Divorce Rates (annually, per 1000 people)*

*Data is most recent available per country, typically between 2017-2020.

  1. Sri Lanka — .15
  2. Guatemala (tie) — .20
  3. Vietnam (tie) — .20
  4. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — .40
  5. Peru — .50
  6. South Africa — .60
  7. Chile (tie) — .70
  8. Colombia (tie) — .70
  9. Ireland (tie) — .70
  10. Malta (tie) — .70
  11. Panama (tie) — .70
  12. Qatar (tie) — .70
  13. Saint Lucia (tie) — .70
  14. United Arab Emirates (tie) — .70
  15. Venezuela (tie) — .70
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On the other side of the coin, several nations have quite low divorce rates. Based upon available data, the country with the lowest divorce rate in the world is Sri Lanka, with a divorce rate of 0.15 divorces per 1,000 residents. Vietnam and Guatemala have the next lowest rate at 0.2 divorces per every 1,000 residents. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Peru, and South Africa rank 4th through 6th, then a nine-way tie at .70/1000 creates a logjam that soaks up spots 7-15.

It should be noted that a low divorce rate does not necessarily mean that a country’s citizens have blissful, thriving marriages. In some countries, divorces may be more difficult to legally obtain, or wives may be unable to leave a bad marriage because they fear for their safety, or for their children’s safety, or because they lack the financial wherewithal (or societal opportunity) to support the family on their own. In fact, if one takes the top 6 countries with the lowest divorce rates and tracks their scores on the United Nations’ 2019 Gender Inequality Index (GII), they rank as follows:

Gender Inequality Index (GNI) of top 6 countries with the lowest divorce rates (out of 162 countries, lower GNI is better):

  • Sri Lanka — .401 (90th place)
  • Guatemala — .479 (119th place)
  • Vietnam — .296 (65th place)
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — not rated
  • Peru — .395 (87th place)
  • South Africa — .406 (93rd place)

By comparison, all but three of the top 13 countries with the highest divorce rates placed within the top 50 in terms of gender equality. In light of these data, it is important to resist drawing conclusions about married life in a given country based upon its divorce rate alone.

Divorce rate and its connection to marriage rate

In fact, divorce rate on its own cannot even give a clear idea of how frequent divorces are in a given country. This is because the divorce rate is a measure of divorces as a percentage of the total population, not in relation to the total number of marriages. Why does this matter? Because the United States’ 2019’s rate of 2.7 new divorces per 1000 people would be quite impressive if all 1000 of those people were married, but shockingly worrisome if only 50 out of 1000 were married. For that reason, divorce rates are often viewed alongside a country’s overall marriage rate. They may even be combined to produce a rough marriage/divorce ratio or percentage.

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For example, if one matches the United States’ 2019’s rate of 2.7 new divorces per 1000 people to the number of marriages that took place in 2019—6.1 per 1000 people—it works out to one new divorce for every 2.26 new marriages, a divorce percentage of just over 44%. These are arguably more insightful and relatable numbers than «2.7 divorces per 1000 people.» Of course, even this calculation is not entirely precise—divorce rates should ideally be compared to the marriage rates from the year each dissolving marriage was initially created, not the current year. However, it is nonetheless a useful (and much easier to compute) ballpark estimate for times when more granular data is unavailable.

First-time divorce rate tied to education, race

Date: November 7, 2011 Source: Bowling Green State University Summary: New research shows there is substantial variation in the first-time divorce rate when it is broken down by race and education. But, there is also evidence that a college degree has a protective effect against divorce among all races. Share:


New research from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) at Bowling Green State University shows there is substantial variation in the first-time divorce rate when it is broken down by race and education. But, there is also evidence that a college degree has a protective effect against divorce among all races.

The data for the family profile, «First Divorce Rate, 2010» were gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010. At that time, the rate of first divorce in the U.S. was 17.5 per 1,000 women 18 years old and older in a first marriage. According to the research, recent declines in the probability of divorce largely reflect an increase in marital stability among the more educated.

Among women in a first marriage, the rate of first divorce is highest for those who received some education after high school, but have not earned a bachelor’s degree — 23 per 1,000. The association between education and divorce is also curvilinear. The least (no high school diploma or GED) and the highest (college degree) educated women share the lowest rate of first divorce, with 14.4 and 14.2 per 1,000, respectively.

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Broken down by race and ethnicity, the study found Asian women have the lowest first divorce rate at 10 divorces per 1,000 women in a first marriage. The first divorce rates of white and Hispanic women were similar at 16.3 and 18.1, respectively. African-American women have substantially higher rates of first divorce compared to all other racial and ethnic groups, at 30.4 divorces per 1,000 women in a first marriage.

Once education was factored in, the NCFMR found, with the exception of Asians, the highest rate of first divorce was among women with some college, regardless of race or ethnicity.

«Contrary to the notion that women with a college degree face the lowest chances of divorce, those without a high school degree actually have similar low odds of divorce,» explained Dr. Susan Brown, NCFMR co-director. «The relationship between education and divorce is not straightforward.»

However, according to co-director Dr. Wendy Manning, these patterns are consistent with patterns they are finding in other national data sources.

The association between education and the first-divorce rate held up even when race was factored in. Among African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics, women with less than a high school degree had a similar divorce rate to women who graduated from college. Among African-American and Hispanic women, the lowest first-divorce rates were found among women with less than a high school diploma.

«Among white women, there were few differences according to education, but those with a college degree experienced lower divorce rates than any other education group,» Manning said. «These findings showcase that the association between education and divorce differs for racial and ethnic groups, and it is important to consider this variation.»

This project was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

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