Marriage and divorce
The United Nations Statistics Division is the primary agency responsible, at an international level, for collecting official statistics on marriage and divorce from vital statistics system and population and housing censuses. These data are collected from the national statistical offices of over 200 countries and areas on an annual basis through the Demographic Yearbook data collection system (check last tab). The Regional Commissions also collect official statistics on marriage and divorce from Member States and share these data with the United Nations Statistics Division thereby minimizing the response burden to countries.
The United Nations Statistics Division calculates selected indicators and rates such as the crude marriage and divorce rates or singulate mean age at marriage and disseminates these indicators along with official country data on marriage, divorce, annulment, etc. through the Demographic Yearbook.
In accordance with its mandate, the United Nations Statistics Division provides official statistics on marriage, divorce and population by marital status to other international agencies and organizations. Data on marriage and divorce are also made available to Member States, for international comparisons, as well as to scholars and academia, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the public-at-large.
Official statistics provided by national statistical authorities:
- Demographic Yearbook
- Demographic Yearbook Special Topics
Additional information from a wide range of national and international sources:
- Statistics and indicators on women and men
Source: Demographic Yearbook 2006
Table 23: Marriages and crude marriage rates, by urban/rural residence: 2002-2006 (Released: 23 July 2008)
notes - pdf pdf
Table 24: Marriages cross classified by age of bridegroom and bride: latest available year, 1997-2006 (Released: 25 July 2008)
notes - pdf pdf
Standards and methods
The United Nations Statistics Division issues standards and methods approved by the Statistical Commission to assist national statistical authorities and other producers of statistics in the collection, compilation and dissemination of data.
Concepts and definitions
Source for A - E: Principles and Recommendations for Vital Statistics Systems, Revision 2
A. Marriage (para. 57.)
Is the act, ceremony or process by which the legal relationship of husband and wife is constituted. The legality of the union may be established by civil, religious or other means as recognized by the laws of each country.
B. Divorce (para. 57.)
Is a final legal dissolution of a marriage, that is, that separation of husband and wife which confers on the parties the right to remarriage under civil, religious and/or other provisions, according to the laws of each country.
C. Annulment (para. 57.)
Is the invalidation or voiding of a marriage by a competent authority, according to the laws of each country, which confers on the parties the status of never having been married to each other.
D. Separation, judicial (para. 57.)
Is the disunion of married persons, according to the laws of each country, without conferring on the parties the right to remarry.
E. Marital Status (paras. 168.- 174.)
According to the Principles and Recommendations for Vital Statistics Systems, marital status is the status of individuals with respect to the marriage laws or customs of the country. It is recommended that the following categories of marital status be identified:
- (a) single (never married);
- (b) lawfully married;
- (c) religious married, consensual union and customary union;
- (d) widowed and not remarried;
- (e) divorced and not remarried;
- (f) married but legally separated.
F. Marital Status (paras. 2.96.- 2.103.)
According to the Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, marital status is the personal status of each individual in relation to the marriage laws or customs of the country. The categories of marital status to be identified are the following:
- (a) single, in other words, never married;
- (b) married;
- (c) widowed and not remarried;
- (d) divorced and not remarried;
- (e) married but separated.
The marital status categories described above do not provide complete information on the range of de facto unions of varying degrees of stability, which may be common in some countries; nor do they adequately describe the prevalence of formal marriage combined with relatively stable de facto unions outside marriage. Information on these relationships is very useful in studies of fertility but it is not possible to provide an international recommendation on this matter because of the different circumstances prevailing among countries. It is suggested, however, that countries wishing to investigate these relationships should consider the possibility of collecting separate data for each person on formal marital unions, on de facto unions and on the duration of each type of union.
Collection and dissemination of data from the Demographic Yearbook
The United Nations Statistics Division collects official statistics on marriage and divorce through the Demographic Yearbook data collection system.
The five questionnaires used are:
- Vital Statistics Questionnaire
- Population Estimates Questionnaire
- Population Census Questionnaire
- Population Census Questionnaire on Economic Characteristics
- Population Census Questionnaire on Household Characteristics
These five questionnaires generate 18 tables (see below) on marriage, divorce, annulment, population by marital status etc. cross-tabulated by various social and demographic characteristics such as age, sex, number of children, occupational status, etc.
Three (see statistics tab) of these tables are disseminated through the Demographic Yearbook on an annual basis. The remaining tables on marital formation and dissolution are published in the special editions of the Demographic Yearbook dedicated to the topic of marriage and divorce. To date, five issues of the Demographic Yearbook have been dedicated to this topic, namely the 1990, 1982, 1976, 1968 and 1958 issues of the Demographic Yearbook. Print copies of the Demographic Yearbook can be purchased through the UN Publications Order Form.
The most recent technical reports review the collection and dissemination of data on marriage and divorce within the Demographic Yearbook.
Tables generated from the following five questionnaires:
- Table 1F. Marriages
- Table 1G. Divorces and Annulments
- Table 1H. Divorces
- Table 1I. Annulments
- Table 16. Death by age, sex and marital status
- Table 24. Marriages by month of marriage
- Table 25. Marriages by previous marital status of bride and groom
- Table 26. Marriages by age of bride and groom
- Table 26A. First marriages by age of groom and bride
- Table 27. Marriages by age and previous marital status of bride and groom
- Table 28. Divorces by duration of marriage
- Table 29. Divorces by number of dependent children
- Table 30. Divorces by age of husband and age of wife
- Table 31. Divorces by duration of marriage and age of husband and wife
- Table 7. Population by marital status, age, sex and urban/rural residence
- Table 4. Estimated population by marital status, age, sex and urban/rural residence
- Table 8. Population aged __or over by type of activity, age, sex and marital status
- Table 3. Households by age and sex and marital status of household head or other reference member