Can they stay, with only one to pray?
March 23, 2010 7:09 PM   Subscribe

What is the divorce rate for interfaith marriages?

I'm specifically looking for marriages between Canadian atheists and Roman Catholics, though any christian denomination and nationality will do, provided data on intrafaith marriages is included as well.

Googling turns up the Barna study, which was linked to metafilter here. Intrafaith data is provided, but I don't see any stats on interfatih.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse to Human Relations (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know where to find the statistics you're looking for - and I hope it's considered sufficiently on-topic to say that statistics will in no way allow you to discern the future happiness of whatever couple of real individuals you're worried about.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:37 PM on March 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


statistics will in no way allow you to discern the future happiness of whatever couple of real individuals you're worried about.

This times a thousand.
posted by dfriedman at 7:50 PM on March 23, 2010


Can't find the specific stats, but I took a Sociology of Families class last semester and found that the highest divorce rates were among totally areligious couples, and that even if only one partner is religious, those couples tend to divorce less.

If you want to know if your relationship is doomed, well, we can't tell you that. Even if 99% of Canadian atheists who married Roman Catholics got divorced, it wouldn't mean you and your partner would have to.
posted by too bad you're not me at 8:07 PM on March 23, 2010


Can they stay, with only one to pray?

Are you actually asking this, or are we supposed to ignore it because it's only the title? It's a very different question than what's the divorce rate for Catholic/atheist marriages.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:13 PM on March 23, 2010


Can't find the specific stats, but I took a Sociology of Families class last semester and found that the highest divorce rates were among totally areligious couples.

Actually, divorce rates among atheists are lower than Christians, so I don't see how that can be true. via (Warning! Annoying blinking ad!)
posted by misha at 8:42 PM on March 23, 2010 [2 favorites]



Can't find the specific stats, but I took a Sociology of Families class last semester and found that the highest divorce rates were among totally areligious couples.

Actually, divorce rates among atheists are lower than Christians, so I don't see how that can be true. via (Warning! Annoying blinking ad!)


Perhaps I was remembering incorrectly. Now that I check, my textbook says that there is lower marital satisfaction reported among couples where neither spouse has any religious ties. To be fair, this doesn't mean a higher divorce rate, and statistics can be misleading.

I think my point still stands that the data on this topic is irrelevant to the happiness of the real couple involved.
posted by too bad you're not me at 10:04 PM on March 23, 2010


These Canadian stats are ten years old but if you continue poking around stats can you may find more. Pollster Michael Adams may have more info too, have a look at his past research.
posted by saucysault at 11:32 PM on March 23, 2010


According to Religion in the home in the 1980s and 1990s: a meta-analytic review and conceptual analysis of links between religion, marriage, and parenting, published in 2001:
Divorce. The hypothesis that greater reli-
giousness is tied to lower divorce rates has
received considerable attention. As indicated in
Table 3, several studies have found that indi-
viduals who report having an allegiance to a
religious denomination (e.g., Catholic, Protes-
tant) are less likely to have a history of divorce
than those who state "none" when asked about
their religious affiliation. The average effect
size of this link is r = -.082.
Later, the paper states:
Denominational homogamy (e.g., both Cath-
olic, Protestant, or Mormon) between couples is
another religious variable that has been hypoth-
esized to relate to lower divorce rates.
[...]
In a longitudinal study, Lehrer
and Chadwick (1993) found that same-faith
couples had lower future rates of divorce than
couples where only one partner was affiliated
with a denomination or partners had different
religious affiliations. Similar results were found
by Bahr (1981) in a cross-sectional study. Fur-
ther insight about divorce and religious homog-
amy comes from Call and Heaton's (1997)
study, which assessed the similarity-dissimilarity
of partners' church attendance and the belief
that the Bible is the answer to all important
human problems as well as couples' denomina-
tional homogamy. Their results indicate that
dissimilarity in church attendance, but not in
denominational affiliation or orthodox belief,
was related to greater marital dissolution. More-
over, this link remained after controlling for
salient religious, marital, family, and demo-
graphic variables.
Admittedly, the study was based on 20- to 30-year-old studies.

Perhaps the quickest way to find related studies is to look at papers which cite that one.

Actually, divorce rates among atheists are lower than Christians,

Even if that statistic is accurate, does it take the rate of getting married in the first place? Seems to me that a strong believer in marriage, who opposed sex before marriage and 'living together in sin', might be faster and more likely to get married than the people for whom marriage was a ceremonial formality.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:39 AM on March 24, 2010


By which I mean: if atheists only get married after living together for five years, only those disinclined to break up would get married in the first place.

So an atheist could have a 4-year relationship without marriage, and break up, then have another relationship and get married after 5 years.

On the other hand a marriage advocate might have the same length and success rate of relationships, but if they got married during the 4 year relationship, they would add to divorce statistics where the atheist wouldn't.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:51 AM on March 24, 2010


On the other hand a marriage advocate might have the same length and success rate of relationships, but if they got married during the 4 year relationship, they would add to divorce statistics where the atheist wouldn't.

I think this last comment really highlights the difficulty inherent in this question. The truth is that the divorce rate among couples that cohabit prior to marriage appears to be higher than among those who do not. This doesn't seem intuitive, but I've seen the statistic presented in more than a few places, not all of them partisan.

This is a useful bit of information for considering the more specific question at hand for two reasons: 1) it shows that intuition does not necessarily lead to truth in these types of statistical matters; and, 2) it more importantly highlights how very politicized the topic of divorce is, including who gets divorced and why. It's easy to see why people would want to reinforce their deeply held beliefs about what makes a "good" life, and talking about marriage and divorce are pretty good ways to do that. The title of this post, if serious, shows the possible bias inherent in just posing certain questions. I think it would take some reasonably in-depth reading to feel confident in any statistics about these topics.
posted by OmieWise at 5:30 AM on March 24, 2010


Thanks for the help so far everyone.

I want this information for personal interest, not as any kind of predictive tool. The title was just riffing off the slogan ¨those that pray together stay together¨, which partly inspired this question.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 5:38 AM on March 24, 2010


There is also a different among types of religion; in the US, Catholics and Jews are LESS likely than average to get divorced; evangelical Protestants are much MORE likely to get divorced. However, divorce rates also correlate to geography (more in the south, less in the north) and politics (right-wingers get divorced more often than left-wingers) and since evangelical Protestantism is most predominant among southern right-wing people, it's very difficult to tease out if being evangelical is the dispositive factor, if something else is, or if it's an interconnected culture and history that currently puts marriage at greater risk being a conservative Baptist in Gastonia than being a liberal Catholic in Boston, say. (And of course, people married very young are more likely to get divorced; evangelical Protestants typically marry younger than Catholics and Jews -- is that BECAUSE evangelical Protestant culture pushes early marriage and still often uses marriage as the solution to premarital pregnancy? Or are those all just concurrent factors? Is the youthful marriage the key? Are the evangelical beliefs the key? Or is it a big set of closely related cultural and religious factors within a specific historical environment?)

More specific to your question, in the US, atheists are more likely to live in the north and be liberal, so US surveys have those confounding factors. I'm unsure whether there's a survey with a big enough sample to control for other factors such that it could SPECIFICALLY pull out atheism as its own factor.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:26 AM on March 24, 2010


Hmmm... combing through Stats Canada´s information is a mixed blessing.

CANSIM
has data on the total number of marriages for each religious group, and puts the number for the year 2000 at 3600 (Catholic/No Religion only) [pdf]. Unfortunately the divorce rate tables aren´t organized by religion, just age, province, etc. Church attendance is correlated with fewer marriage dissolutions, but having ¨no religion¨ has no effect [pdf].

This article may have divorce/religion merged data, but I can´t get past the pay-wall.


Prevalence of each religion, for background info.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 10:02 AM on March 24, 2010


This is an interesting question for me because as a Canadian who has many RC friends and also identifies myself as RC on all census and stats can interviews I am also an atheist. That many people who identify as cultural Catholics actually don't believe in god is not new, but throws a wrench into demographic polls that attempt to lable people as either/or when it comes to religion. As a case in point, I believe many francophones, especially in Quebec, self-identify as RC but, tabernac!, never make it to church.

As well, the large number of people that choose common-law marriage but whose break-ups are not reflected in the statistics could throw you off; depending on your purpose, so could the stats for same sex marriage.

If you are looking for the underlying values around religion and marriage in Canada, Sex in the Snow (I know, I hate the title too) is very illuminating.
posted by saucysault at 8:45 PM on March 24, 2010


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