do the math

# This Guy On TikTok Debunked The Infamous “50% Of Marriages End In Divorce” Myth

Comedian & Writer Alex Falcone explains why we're all wrong in a viral TikTok.

Written by Jamie Kenney
@alex_falcone / TikTok

This infamous marriage “statistic” is something we’ve all heard at some point in our lifetime: 50% of marriages end in divorce.

Whether it’s a well-intentioned friend warning you ahead of a marriage. or a more annoying friend smugly declaring their intention to remain single, or an auntie fretting over the State of the World — anyone who trots out this grim statistic has one thing in common: they’re wrong.

Recently, comedian Alex Falcone took to TikTok to explain why, specifically, the truism many of us have been hearing most of our lives is anything but.

“First of all, it’s a dumb thing to measure,” he begins. “Until the 1970s, divorce law was very different. So really, it would have been a measurement of what percentage of couples are trapped in bad situations.”

Falcone goes on to point out that this stat does not take into account the duration of marriage (“the couple that held hands while the water came in on the Titanic counts exactly the same as someone who got hit by a bus on their honeymoon”) or “overachievers” aka folks who get married and divorced multiple times.

But above and beyond all this — it’s an all but impossible number to calculate. Falcone points out that there’s too much data to “track every single marriage that's ever happened” to determine whether it was still going, ended in death, or ended in divorce.

The folks who trot out the 50% statistic use just a fraction of that data and use that very same data to do some very flawed math: divide the number of divorces in a year by the number of marriages.

It doesn’t take too much sleuthing to figure out that these are two very different populations with very little overlap. The “divorce pool” is literally all years prior to the current one (and, sure, maybe a relative handful of people from that same year) versus just newlyweds. Or, as Falcone puts it, “You're basically saying that 50% of apples end in oranges.”

And what’s the cherry on top of this lie-filled sundae?

“It's not even 50%!”

*record scratch*

Are you kidding? But it’s true! Falcone displays data from the American Community Survey data, and if you do “their bad math,” the number you’ll actually get is 32 percent.

Where did this statistic initially come from? No one’s really sure about the first person to come to this conclusion — though, distressingly, it appears not only anecdotally but in some college-level textbooks.

Some believe it began as a post-WWII projection of what the divorce rate would be in the 1970s.

But truth is, the highest an estimated divorce rate has ever been (remember, this is really hard to calculate accurately) was 41% per the New York Times, though many researchers believe even this number is probably closer to 23%.

Divorce rates did steadily go up over the 20th century, reaching their zenith in the late-’70s and early-’80s before just as steadily declining thereafter.

Ironically, we have Conservative paragon Ronald Reagan to thank! In 1969, Reagan, then governor of California, introduced no-fault divorce, which soon spread to other states and freed many people, especially women, from needing to justify leaving an unhappy or abusive marriage.

(A Republican hero making this happen is ironic given that a sizable faction of the modern GOP is devoting efforts to end no fault divorce, including vice presidential nominee JD Vance.)

Divorce rates sharply rising in the following 10 to 15 years corresponds with their availability for literally generations of folks who’d never had the option before.

But, OK, if 50% of marriages don’t end in divorce, what are a couple’s odds of splitting up? Again, it’s probably impossible to know the real answer, but the United States Census Bureau estimates that in 2021, the latest year for which they have analyzed this data, the US divorce rate currently stands at just under 7% national, ranging from 11% in Idaho and Arkansas to just over 4% in New Hampshire.

So there you have it: the divorce rate is, and never has been, 50 percent!

So don’t you fear, married people. And divorced people, consider yourselves extra special now! But wherever you stand on the marriage spectrum, as Falcone aptly concludes, “We as a society need to split up with the 50/50 myth.”