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Is intermarriage more likely to end in divorce?

An advertisement reading "Quick Divorce From $300."

Photo credit: Grant MacDonald.

The Washington Post Outlook section featured an interesting article this weekend on a surprising topic---whether or not marrying someone of the same religion is likely to make your marriage more successful. This is particularly relevant to Jews, who now find themselves with an intermarriage rate of almost 50%.

The article comes out clearly on the side of intermarriage being more likely to bring about divorce and separation, citing the fact that according to “calculations based on the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.” A Jew and a Christian supposedly have a 40% of getting divorced in five years, while two mainline Christians only have a 20% chance.

The article raises some questions, especially in light of Leah’s recent post about JDate and the pitfalls of assuming that the same religion means the same values. The author claims that religion is about more than just religion, but rather about values, such as how to raise children, how to spend money, and how to choose friends. Consequently, as the millennial generation becomes more and more willing to marry people from outside of their religion without discussing religion prior to the marriage, they will end up having to deal with conflicts over those values. But does sharing a religion, even if only in name, mean that people share the same values?

Quite frankly, I’m not sure. Even in the article, various people are quoted about their belief that limiting yourself to dating within one religion is bigoted, showing how there is a growing sentiment among millenials that people are just people, regardless of religion. It seems to me that it is unlikely that religion on its own will so distinctly influence the divorce rate of a population that is increasingly moving away from affiliation with a single religion.  But on the other hand, I think that religion can often influence people’s life choices and goals: according to the Pew study cited above, 40% of millenials say that religion is very important in their lives---less than half the population, but still a large chunk.

So perhaps religion is simply one of many factors that affect the divorce rate. Sociologists speculate that “the higher the educational level, higher the occupational level, higher the income, the less likely you are to divorce,” using Massachusetts as an example; Massachusetts has the highest rate of high school and college completion, as well the lowest divorce rate in the country.  It seems that there is a connection between socio-economic factors and divorce. And personally, it seems to me that it just makes sense that people who come from similar upbringings will find it easier to raise a family because they will both have similar ideas of how to do so. Religion is part of an upbringing, but so are many other things, such as how much emphasis to put on education and how to spend money. Although the article shows that religion is clearly a factor that influences divorce rates, I don’t think that we can dub it the factor.

Topics: Marriage
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I think this is an excellent example of the "correlation does not equal causation" theory.

Also, you make a good point about the millennial generation's shift towards intermarriage. Perhaps shared generational values (multiculturalism, environmentalism, etc.) can replace the need for shared religious values among intermarried millennial couples.

How to cite this page

From the Rib. "Is intermarriage more likely to end in divorce?." 10 June 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 26, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/is-intermarriage-more-likely-to-end-in-divorce>.

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