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Military Divorce Stats = Confusion

In my post last week introducing myself (before I went on AUSA overdrive), I wrote that the military divorce statistic is 3.6 percent as of 2009, and at least insinuated that this is not only a negative thing but that it is also alarming.

What I did not say is why, so here it is: the longer our current wars drag on, the higher the rate creeps. The 3.6 percent is a reflection of that trend.

In 2001, before the start of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rate was a full point lower at 2.6 percent. Something is causing more and more military couples to divorce, despite an influx of government spending on military family programs.

What readers of my last post found confusing, and with good reason, is that compared to the perceived national average of 50 percent, 3.6 seems low. 

And it would be, if that statistic was accurate. But it isn’t. The national rate is actually more like 3.4 percent, a near statistical tie with the military rate.

So where does the “50 percent” statistic you always hear come from? 

It is calculated in a couple of ways. One is by comparing the number of marriages per 1,000 people with the annual divorce rate, a method researchers call “misleading.” The other is from a study by two researchers with the Census Bureau who, based on an upward trend in divorce rates in the mid-90s, predicted that in the coming years 50 percent of first marriages would end. Either way, the resulting figure is inaccurate.

The 3.4 percent number, on the other hand, is based on the number of divorces reported by states compared to the total number of marriages in a year. That is the same way the military rate is calculated. According to 2009 Defense Department statistics, roughly 27,000 of the 765,000 marriages military wide, or about 3.6 percent, ended in divorce. 

The number of military family related programs available today shows that the government clearly cares that the rate is on the rise. The Army alone is looking to pump $9 billion into family programs this coming year, said Thomas Lamot, assistant secretary of the Army, manpower and reserve affairs, at an AUSA forum last week.

The question, of course, is why? Why care? Nine billion could pay for a lot of fancy cool guy toys instead of family support programs.

What do you think?

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