What is the divorce rate in Europe?

After the ban on divorce was lifted in Malta in 2011, there are only two countries that have such bans: the Philippines and the Vatican State. The Roman Catholic Church declares marriage to be a divine gift and therefore indissoluble. In this respect, one might expect that in countries with a majority of Catholic church members, the divorce rate is lower than in countries with Protestant or secular populations. Is that true?

For the period from 1950 to 1989, Germany was like a large laboratory for comparative social science with two subsets of the population exposed to different framework conditions - more conservative-religious in the western part and more socialist-secular in the eastern part. Is that reflected in the divorce rates? Yes and no.

With data from the Federal Statistical Office, the two subsets can each be shown separately and differences and similarities can be seen. The difference, to which the presence or absence of religion in society certainly also plays a role, can be seen in the annual divorce rate, which was 3 to 10 percent higher in the GDR than in the former Federal Republic. The common ground, for which religion no longer plays a role, is an almost parallel development in divorce rates in East and West. (The decline in the West 1977-1979 is caused by new divorce legislation.)

This speaks in favor of a relative influence of religion on the level of the divorce rate, the development (increase) of which, however, is more strongly influenced by other influences.

In a special study “Risk of separation of couples with children: The influence of religion in West and East Germany”, Christine Schnor comes to the conclusion that there are no significant differences for mothers: “The results show that women without denomination have a higher risk of separation than denominational have bound women. The relationship stability of West and East German mothers does not differ significantly, however. "

A look at the divorce rates in other countries: In the English language Wikipedia there are statistics on divorce rates worldwide, which were converted into marriages according to the percentage sequence of divorces. This data is primarily based on the UN statistics on marriages and divorces.

In addition, the table (in the right column) indicated which of the countries recorded is predominantly Catholic or Christian Orthodox (pink) or dominated by Islam (light green).

The result shows that of the TOP TEN, with the highest percentages of divorces to marriages, eight countries are dominated by Catholics. With the exception of Cuba, however, it is all European countries that are well above the total value of the European Union.

This is also shown in a world map:

But religion is only one element that combines with other elements, such as the economic status of the wife, her own professional activity and thus economic independence, her better education.

Just as divorce rates were low in western Germany in the 1950s, when the Catholic Church in particular withheld all independence from women and no normal wife could economically afford to get a divorce, this power of definition is still present today in those dominated by Islam Countries where for the most part people still live according to the principle of the extended family.

The fact that this influence of religion has declined in Europe is also shown by the fact that the majority of the predominantly Catholic countries in South America are in the lower half of the international table.

For Germany, Evelyn Grünheid from the Federal Institute for Population Research has evaluated the official statistics of the Federal Statistical Office on divorce in a working paper “Divorces in Germany: Developments and Backgrounds” and comes to a number of influencing factors that increase the risk of divorce.

“Marriages by couples who got married well below the average marriage age are particularly prone to divorce. The risk of divorce decreases with the age of the partner and the length of the marriage, but it has risen significantly over time in long-term marriages. In terms of age differences between spouses, marriages in which the women are more than ten years older than their partners appear to have the highest risk of divorce. The incidence of divorce is higher in cities than in rural areas, this trend continues unabated, but the incidence of divorce in western German states has increased considerably faster in the last 20 years, so that there is a convergence here. "

There is one thing she cannot clarify as to whether and to what extent religion plays a role, since religious characteristics are not statistically recorded among those involved in a divorce, i.e. are not known.

However, there is a graphic in their working paper in which you can go to the aggregate level of the federal states and see which federal states have Catholic majorities and how high the divorce rate is for them. The result contradicts the initial hypothesis, since the 'front runner' in divorces is the state of Rhineland-Palatinate (45 percent of the population are Catholic, 31 percent Protestant). Third and fourth places are also taken by federal states that have Catholic majorities: Saarland (64 percent Catholics, 20 percent Evangelicals) and North Rhine-Westphalia (40 and 30). Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg are in the middle and the lowest divorces per 10,000 marriages take place in all eastern federal states - where only a minority of Catholics and Protestants live.

Regarding the question of why there is a visible east-west difference, the hypothesis could be formulated that religiously bound people have less flexibility in dealing with marital conflicts than non-denominational ones, what if the economic and social coercion - especially for women - it becomes weaker to endure marital conflicts, which leads to a slightly higher divorce rate among religious people.

In the same working paper by Evelyn Grünheid I find a representation of the divorces per 10,000 married women in Germany at the district level.

The districts with the lowest divorce rates - such as in the Bavarian Forest or Emsland - are also the districts with the highest proportions of Catholic or Protestant church members. At the same time, they are distinctly rural regions with a lower population density. The districts with the highest divorce rates, on the other hand, are cities or urban agglomerations.

This now shows that religion is part of a bundle of factors in which the employment and personal income of women, the role models of women and men, experienced social security or control, among others. m. play a role. In these integrations, religion can either act as an amplifier or it becomes less important. At the federal state level, these differences can also be seen in the fact that the two “city states” Berlin and Bremen have the highest divorce rate based on 10,000 marriages.

A study for the USA by the Barna Group (from 2008) also shows that religious affiliation is a weaker indicator of a divorce rate than the aspects of social class, ethnicity and political attitudes.

The faith groups shown individually all remain at the 33 percent divorce average in the United States. Above this average, people from the lower class, African-Americans, and politically liberals have higher divorce rates.

But the data of the 2011 census in Germany (apparently) contradict the previous findings, because those who say “Keiner ö.-r. Religious society ", that is the non-denominational and the Muslims, have (here the men) a significantly higher proportion of divorced in their ranks (47.5 percent) than the church members (24.4 and 24.5 percent divorced).

But that can be clarified if you look at the age groups. There you can see that the “nobody ö.r. Religious society members “have a different age focus than the church members. In the middle age group of 30-49 year olds (born 1962-1981) it is around 10 percentage points more, and among the 50-64 year olds (born 1947-1961) it is around 7 percent more in the age group. If one then assumes that the mean age of divorce for men (1990) was 38 years and (2015) 46 years, then the higher divorce rate among non-religious groups is determined by the significantly larger proportion of this age group.

The same can also be said for Switzerland. In a simple combination of characteristics of religious or non-denominational members, it turns out that the non-denominational have a significantly higher divorce rate.

Apart from the fact that the divorce rates rose in all religious communities (with one exception) from 1970 to 2000, this is particularly pronounced among non-denominational groups because, due to their younger age structure, they have a disproportionately large number of divorced people in their ranks. So to award non-denominational groups a higher divorce rate would be a fallacy.