The Religious Marriage Paradox: Younger Marriage, Less Divorce

A New Report by The Institute for Family Studies

Charlottesville, Virginia, Dec. 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Date: December 15, 2021
Contact: Michael Toscano

(Charlottesville, VA)—A new IFS research brief from Lyman Stone and Brad Wilcox explores the "religious marriage paradox": religious Americans are less likely to divorce even as they are more likely to marry younger than age 30. 

For this research brief, Stone and Wilcox analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth to answer this important question: Do lower rates of cohabitation among religious Americans help explain the religious marriage paradox?

Among the key findings from the new IFS report

1) Religious marriages are more stable. Women raised in religious homes are about 10% less likely to divorce than those raised in non-religious homes.

2) Religious marriages are more stable, in part, because religion reduces young adults’ odds of cohabiting prior to marriage, even though it increases their likelihood of marrying at a relatively young age.

  • Women who grew up religious are about 20% less likely to begin a cohabiting union in any given year than their non-religious peers. 
  • Women who cohabit are about about 15% more likely to divorce than those who did not cohabit prior to marriage.

3) Surprisingly, religious 20-somethings who married directly without cohabiting appear to have the lowest divorce rates. 

"Waiting to marry until you’re 30 does not always increase your odds of forging a stable marriage," note Stone and Wilcox. "Especially for religious men and women who avoid cohabitation, our analysis of the NSFG indicates that they can marry in their 20s without serious adverse divorce risks."

Read the full research brief.

For further information, contact: Michael Toscano


Annual probability of divorce, by age of marriage and religious upbringing

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