Naomi Schaefer Riley, in ‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America (OUP, 2013), tells us that 45 percent of all marriages in the US are between people of different religious traditions. (As The CARA Report Fall 2013 reports.) And how does the divorce rate compare for marriages of various religious combinations? Not what you might have expected.
When two “Nones” marry, the divorce rate is 44%. But when a None marries a Mainline Protestant, the divorce rate shoots up to 63%. So a None does better marrying a fellow None.
When two Catholics marry, the divorce rate is 29% – happily, lower than one might have expected. Two Evanglical Protestants, 32%. Two Mainline Protestants, 42%.
But stay with the 29% rate for a Catholic-Catholic marriage. When a Catholic marries a None, the divorce rate goes down to 26%. But when a Catholic marries a Mainline Protestant, the divorce rate drops further, to 24%.
Not sure where to go with this. Pastoral counsel for an engaged Catholic can hardly be, “I’m concerned that you’re marrying a fellow Catholic – do you realize that your risk of divorce is higher than if you would go find a None or a Mainline Protestant to marry?”!
Here are the divorce rates for various combinations, from highest to lowest.
Mainline Prot / None: 63%
Evangelical Prot / None: 61%
None / None: 44%
Mainline Prot / Mainline Prot: 42%
Catholic / Evangelical Prot: 40%
Evangelical Prot/Evangelical Prot: 32%
Catholic / Catholic: 29%
Catholic / None: 26%
Catholic / Mainline Prot: 24%
It seems that the presence of one None in a mixed combination gives the highest chance of divorce (check the first three entries)… except when the None marries a Catholic (near the low end of the chart). The presence of one Catholic in a mixed combo tends to pull the divorce rate downward.
Writing from Minnesota, where we’re surrounded on all sides by Lutherans, I guess I’m happy that the divorce rate for Catholic / Mainline Protestant marriages is relatively low.