Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Wrecked Homes in America, Amazing Divorce Rates in Christian America, May 21, 1919

From The University of North Carolina News Letter, Chapel Hill, N.C., May 21, 1919

Wrecked Homes in America. . . Amazing Divorce Rates

Divorces in the United States in 1916 numbered 109,000, against 42,000 in 1890. American homes are dissolving at the rate of 300 a day the year through.

Here’s a pretty kettle of fish for Christian America.

One marriage in every nine in the United States winds up in a divorce court.

In 23 states of the Union the ratios of divorce to marriage are still more amazing.

One marriage in five ends in divorce in Oklahoma, Montana, California, and Idaho. In Washington state every fourth couple is divorced, in Oregon every third, and in Nevada every second. Naturally the ratio of divorces to marriages in Nevada is high because of the divorce mill at Reno. It is fair to say that nearly three-fourths of the divorces in this state were granted to non-residents in 1916.

But this is not the worst of it: the divorce rate in the country-at-large steadily increases from decade to decade. In 1890 it was 53 per 100,000 inhabitants; in 1916 it was 112 or more than double. The marriage rate moved up some 15 percent during this quarter century or so, but the divorce rate increase more than 100 percent.

Things are getting steadily worse in every state in the Union, except Main, West Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, North and South Dakota, Colorado, and the District of Columbia.

More than a third or nearly 37 percent of all divorces the country over were granted for desertion; and it’s the wife that most often deserts. A full half of the divorces granted to husbands was for this cause alone. Nearly three-fifths of the divorces were granted to childless couples, while cruelty accounts for more than a fourth or 28 percent of the total, and infidelity for only 11.5 percent.

It is fairly easy to rank the states according to the number of divorces granted in 1916, but it is difficult or impossible to compare the social status of the states and to rank them according to the prevalence or absence of the social ills that give rise to divorce; so because of the lack of uniformity in the legal grounds for divorce, and also because of the varying attitudes and humors of judges and juries. Thus, in 1916 South Carolina granted no divorces for any cause whatsoever, neither did it require marriage licenses or marriage records of any sort. Nevertheless it is possible that South Carolina has wrecked and wretched homes due to the same social ills that break up family groups in her sister states. Divorces do not exist in that state, but separations are common enough to cause alarm.

Divorces in Carolina

In 1916 the divorces granted in our own state numbered 668, not including the divorces in 11 counties not reported by the court clerks. Some of our most populous city-counties turned in no divorce figures—Forsyth, Cumberland, and Lenoir, among others.

North Carolina had a smaller divorce rate than any other state in the Union except South Carolina where divorces were abolished by law in 1878.

Nevertheless our homes are being wrecked by divorce at the rate of about two a day the year around.

But even more alarming is the increase of the evil. Divorces in North Carolina have multiplied more than 2 ½ times over in the 26 years between 1890 and 1916. The increase is from 12 to 31 per 100,000 of population during a quarter century!

Our increase in population in 26 years—from 1890 to 1916—was 50 percent; the increase in marriages was 65 percent; but the increase in divorces was 253 percent.

The rates for North Carolina counties in 1916 range from zero in Alexander, Gates, Davie, Jones, Pender, and Tyrrell where no divorces were granted in 1916, to 119 per 100,000 of population in Transylvania.

Transylvania is the only county in the state with a divorce rate higher than that of the United States, 119 against 112. It makes the student wonder what the matter can be in Transylvania.

Other high divorce rates appear in Wilson and Swain—they are around three times the average of the state-at-large.

In Carteret, Hyde, Durham, Camden, and Buncombe the divorce rates are more than twice the state rate.

The rates in 28 counties are higher than the average for the state.

Nine of these 28 counties are in the foot hill and mountain regions, where a very few years ago divorce was almost unknown.

What Are the Explanations?

So far we are not venturing to consider the causes of our increasing divorce rates in North Carolina and the United States. Divorce is an exceedingly complicated social problem everywhere in Christendom. We are simply giving the bare facts as they appear in Marriage and Divorce, a Federal Census Bureau Bulletin that has just reached our desk.

There is no more important problem in this or any other state. If the American home goes to pieces under the stress of increasing industrialism and urbanization, then our civilization is doomed.

There are other tables in our work-shop that have been figured out of this bulletin: showing the states ranked in order from low to high according to the ratios of marriage to divorce; and the counties of North Carolina ranked according to divorce rates; and so on.

If there be any manifest public interest in this vital matter these tables will be given to our readers in subsequent issues of the University News Letter.


Divorces in the United States, Per 100,000 Inhabitants in 1916

Based on the 1919 Federal Census Bulletin on Marriage and Divorce.

Rate for the country-at-large, 112; for North Carolina—31—the lowest rate in the United States except in South Carolina which abolished legal divorces in 1878. The rate for the District of Columbia is only 13.

Divorce Rate Per 100,000 of Population, By State

0—South Carolina
31—North Carolina
32—New York

40—New Jersey

65—North Dakota
67—West Virginia


84—South Dakota
91—Virginia and Maine

101—Alabama and Rhode Island
102—New Mexico




152—Florida and Utah
158—New Hampshire





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