The military's divorce rate dropped again last year reaching its lowest point since 2005, according to statistics released today by the Defense Department.
The divorce rate among both officer and enlisted men and women over 2014 was 3.1 percent, Pentagon officials said, only slightly higher than the 2005 rate of 3 percent. The newly released statistics show how the rate has steadily declined since 2011, when it reached a high water mark of 3.7 percent. The rate in 2001, at the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was 2.6 percent.
"The health and well-being of service members and their families is a priority," said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman. "Strong relationships are important to our readiness."
The declining rate is largely due to a major drop in the divorce rate among married female troops. The divorce rate among male service members dropped only .3 percent over last year and only .5 percent since 2011.
But the rate among females has seen a major, steady decline over that period. Since 2011 the female divorce rate has moved steadily downward from 8 percent among both officer and enlisted to 6.5 percent last year.
"The latest data confirm and continue some general trends that we have been seeing for some time. Across all branches, divorce rates for males have been relatively flat," said Benjamin Karney, a researcher with the RAND Corp. who has studied military divorce. "Something else is going on for females, however. Across all branches, divorce rates for female service members have been declining substantially ... We see it among enlisted and officers. That's a real trend, but I am not sure how to account for it."
The biggest rate decline has been among married female Marines. In 2011, 9.5 percent of female enlisted and officer Marines got divorced, compared to 6.2 percent last year.
The civilian divorce rate stands at about 3.6 percent as of 2011, according to the most recent data. Military and civilian divorce rates cannot be accurately compared because of differences in tracking methodology.
While the divorce rate in the military is based on personnel data used to distribute benefits, the civilian rate is calculated on a per-1,000 person basis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC's calculation, however, only accounts for 44 states and the District of Columbia because several states, including California, do not track or report their rates.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org