Mailvox: know your metric

EB asks: You have the figure of our current divorce rate at “4.9 per 10,000”. That would be a divorce rate of only .05%. Shouldn’t it be more like 49%?

I don’t think so. The number, as I understand it, was the number of divorces per 10,000 population. You appear to be thinking in terms of number of divorces per marriage. Needless to say, the vast majority of people don’t get married or divorced every year. For example, there were 15,000 divorces in Minnesota two years ago out of a population of 5 million. If the divorce rate were 49 percent of the population, that would mean that almost everyone in the state got divorced with about 2.4 million divorces, 160 times more than actually occurred. I have seen some conflicting statistics which say the current rate is 4.1 per 1,000 – obviously someone misplaced a zero somewhere, though I don’t know who.

In any event, it’s the rate of change that is the pertinent point in today’s column. I’m not an expert on divorce statistics.