Did you know that the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) keeps a wide range of statistics on social issues as well as matters such as cause of death, infant mortality, life expectancy and the percentage of women receiving prenatal care (62.6 percent in 2012).
Among the other areas monitored and reported by the DSHS are marriages, divorces and annulments. For example, in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available, there were 184,690 marriages compared to 177,219 marriages in 2011. The number of divorces increased from 79,024 in 2011 to 80,030 in 2012.
Calculating the divorce rate by dividing the number of marriages by the number of divorces reveals that the rate in Texas is a little below the national average of around 50 percent. In 2012, the divorce rate in Texas was 43 percent. But this is just an average; there are some counties in Texas with very different rates.
For example, the divorce rates in some of the more populous Texas counties were:
What is the story behind the very low divorce rates in El Paso and Hidalgo counties? The easiest explanation is that both counties have very large Hispanic populations that traditionally have lower divorce rates than the general population. However, differences in how statistics are kept may also account for this.
Other counties with extremely low divorce rates include Starr, Atascosa and Zavala counties. Starr County has the highest proportion of Hispanic residents of any county in the United States, not just Texas. Zavala County’s percentage of Hispanic residents is almost as large. But what about Atascosa County? Like Zavala County, Atascosa is in the San Antonio region. However, its Hispanic population is a much lower portion of the overall population than in Zavala County – only slightly more than 62 percent. This suggests that some other factor in addition to the Hispanic majority explains the low divorce rate.
What else do we know about Texas divorce from the DSHS statistics? The numbers tell us that not all Texas divorces affect children; in fact, only slight more than half of all divorces involve children. We also know something about the ages of people getting divorced in the state; in 2012, the most common age for both men and women was between 30 and 34.
Both the divorce rate and the raw number of divorces across the state has declined since the high in 1981, although there was a slight increase in the years 1990-1992, after which the rate began to decline again.
Of course, stories about declining rates of divorce or counties with hardly any divorces should not minimize the pain and hardship suffered by the thousands of Texas couples whose marriages do end in divorce. Texans facing divorce should get sound advice and counsel to help them navigate these difficult waters.