Monday, August 29, 2011

Divorce in Dixie

CNN has a special section on their website called "Defining America", with a collection of stats and charts and colored maps with stats overlays. It's like someone sat down and said, "What would Patti want in a website?" and then delivered.

One of the headlines that grabbed my attention was the "What's Fueling Bible Belt Divorces?" - it's source material being the US Census Bureau Marital Events of America 2009 survey, released earlier this month. US Census Bureau - giving stats lovers something else to look at after your baseball team has been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. There are many charts and colored maps with stats. While I would normally look at CNN's Southern States = High Divorce rates conclusion as overly simplistic when looking at the complexity of the data, it's really an apt conclusion. Table 1 on page 3 breaks out the marriage and divorce rates by region, and top on the list for divorces is the South.

CNN looks at some anecdotal personal stories to determine what's behind the stats, but they boil down to the obvious: education and economic opportunity. Their Southern Divorce Case Study (or, you know, Lynn) got married young without a college degree in an area of depressed economic opportunities and high drop-out rates in high school. Meanwhile, Married Northern Case Study (Jennifer), delayed marriage, got a college degree, started a career, then married and lives in a state with a thriving economy (or, within commuting distance of two major cities).

Where the CNN article fails is by examining the ties between Southern States, Divorce, and Bible Thumping. What's not discussed is that as a region, the South has fewer major cities, fewer industries, and higher rates of high school drop-outs and poverty. While the high rate of divorced mothers living in poverty is highlighted, it is not discussed whether the mother was living in poverty before the divorce or only after. The tie between poverty and social disintegration needs to be explored.

I'm looking over at my husband right now, and with pure statistics, our marriage should be fine. We're both college educated, married in our late 20s, live in the Midwest, white, and have parents who are still married (I don't know how mine managed, but there they are). Neither one of us are perfect - he has a tendency to leave cabinet doors open... I'm crazy lazy when I come home from work. These things are easy to let go during the day-to-day. But... remove an income and see what happens. I bump my head on an open cabinet door and we spend our food money on stitches. Or, I'm sitting around the house instead of working. THEN, see how the domestic bliss evaporates. Now, remove the income that has the health insurance attached to it and you have the basis for reality TV should one of us need stitches. Divorce? Probably not. We're educated, after all, so any loss of job would probably be temporary, and both sets of parents have a spare bedroom within an hour of a city where jobs could be found should things get really bad. (Hooray for Middle Class parents and resources!) However, take away the sunny long-term outlook and a Plan of Last Resort, and it's not hard to see why someone may want to get out of that situation, even if it means leaving a spouse behind.

I think that's enough for today. I'll write more about how Southern politicians address divorce tomorrow, but writing about me being lazy makes me think that I should make breakfast for the husband... 'cause he is kind of awesome, and is better than I deserve.

No comments:

Post a Comment