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How divorce rates in your state have changed since 1990

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How divorce rates in your state have changed since 1990

Think there’s a formula for a lasting marriage that doesn’t end in divorce? A look at the changes in divorce statistics and trends across the United States in the past 30 years paints a more complicated picture than an easy checklist of factors for a lasting union, or, conversely, a divorce. Some experts point to economic factors that may stress a marriage.

Others say that divorce rates have every bit as much to do with marriage rates as they do with divorce itself—the more married couples there are in a state, the more couples there are to add to the state’s annual divorce tally. And on this front, social norms may be regional, with Southern states making up the lion’s share of the most married and most divorced states, while their Northern counterparts tend to both marry and divorce less.

Stacker used divorce statistics from the CDC/National Center for Health Statistics to determine how divorce rates in every state have changed since 1990. The states are listed here alphabetically, and their changing divorce rates are represented as percent changes from 1990 to 2018 (the most recent year of data available). California, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, and New Mexico are not included as divorce rates were not provided for 1990 and 2018.

Rates are based on provisional counts of divorces by the state of occurrence. Rates are per 1,000 people residing in the area. The population listed is current as of April 1 for 1990, 2000, and 2010 and estimated as of July 1 for all other years. It should be noted that every state has had a decrease in divorce rates from 1990 to 2018, with a national average change of negative 37.3%. During the same period, every state had a decrease in marriage rates, as the national average decreased by 32.5%.

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Alabama

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -39.3% (#22 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 6.1 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.7 per 1,000 people

Although Alabama had a significant decline in divorce rates in the past 30 years, the state still has one of the highest divorce rates in the nation. Six of the 10 states with the highest divorce rates are in the South, of which Alabama is a part. Experts say the decline in divorce rates may be attributed to the general trend of people marrying later in life, which has been shown to result in divorce less often.

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Alaska

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -32.7% (#30 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.7 per 1,000 people

Might geographic isolation lead to the impulse to divorce? Many of the towns in Alaska with the highest divorce rate are located in remote areas. And while isolation might seem like a prime reason to couple up, such a reason might lead to hasty marriages that later result in divorce.

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Arizona

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -56.5% (#3 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 6.9 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3 per 1,000 people

Arizona has one of the highest divorce rates in the nation. Experts speculate that one reason may be Arizona’s no-fault divorce laws, which means people do not have to provide explanations to courts why they want a divorce.

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Arkansas

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -40.6% (#19 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 6.9 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 4.1 per 1,000 people

Arkansas has a very high divorce rate, ranking fourth in the nation. Experts say that compared to the nation as a whole, people in Arkansas are still getting married at a young age, which leads to a likelier chance of divorce.

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Colorado

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -40% (#20 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.3 per 1,000 people

While Colorado’s divorce rate is declining, pockets of the state are stubbornly refusing to go along with the trend of fewer divorces. A look at these cities and towns shows surprising correlating factors: Besides the highest divorce rate, the town of Salida also has the seventh-most bars and liquor stores per capita in the state.

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Connecticut

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -9.4% (#45 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 3.2 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.9 per 1,000 people

One factor to consider in Connecticut’s declining divorce rates is the fact that relatively few people in the state get married. The state’s marriage rates are the fifth-lowest in the country, which means there are fewer unions that might end in divorce.

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Delaware

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -36.4% (#27 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 4.4 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.8 per 1,000 people

Delaware has stringent requirements for initiating a divorce. The state courts require that couples prove specific grounds and reasons for wishing to sever their union and consider the couple still sleeping in the same bedroom as sufficient grounds to deny their petition.

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District of Columbia

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -44.4% (#10 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 4.5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.5 per 1,000 people

The District of Columbia has the highest divorce rate in the country, with nearly 30 of every 1,000 marriages ending in divorce. The District is a famously career-oriented place, which may account for its residents placing a lower priority on maintaining their relationships with their spouses than they do with impressing their bosses.

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Florida

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -42.9% (#14 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 6.3 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.6 per 1,000 people

Although Florida has a very high divorce rate, this can in part be attributed to a diametrically opposite trend: marriage. Marriage rates have climbed steadily in Florida in recent years, creating a larger pool of people who have the potential to get divorced.

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Georgia

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -54.5% (#4 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.5 per 1,000 people

Georgia may have experienced a big decrease in divorce rates, but it still has some of the highest in the country. “It’s largely because we love marriage,” one of the state’s divorce lawyers has said, explaining that rates are high because more people in Georgia are still choosing to get married compared to states like New York and Illinois, meaning there is a larger pool available for divorce.

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Idaho

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -41.5% (#16 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 6.5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.8 per 1,000 people

Idaho has one of the highest divorce rates in the country. Experts speculate that this may be due to the state having a relatively low income compared to other states, which has not improved with the rest of the country in the past 30 years. Data has shown that financial stress can contribute to the dissolution of marriages.

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Illinois

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -60.5% (#2 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 3.8 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 1.5 per 1,000 people

Illinois has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. Some point to the lower marriage rates the state has maintained relative to the country as a whole, while others suggest that more career-oriented citizens, especially women, may be responsible for the decline in marriage rates.

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Iowa

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -43.6% (#13 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 3.9 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.2 per 1,000 people

Divorce rates are climbing in Iowa, while marriage rates are dropping to lows the state has not seen in decades. Experts say that more young Iowans seem interested in getting all of their affairs in order financially and logistically before getting married, while older Iowans are growing increasingly socially comfortable with divorce.

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Kansas

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -54% (#5 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.3 per 1,000 people

Some experts attribute the drop in divorce rates in Kansas to the declining importance of marriage to its citizens. These experts point to data showing that more couples than ever in Kansas are choosing to cohabitate and have children together outside marriage, which means fewer possible divorces.

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Kentucky

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -39.7% (#21 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.8 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.5 per 1,000 people

Four cities in Kentucky are counted among the most divorce-prone in the country. Experts suggest economic reasons behind rates remaining high in these particular counties. The town of Middlesborough, for example, has a per capita income of less than $15,000 per year.

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Maine

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -25.6% (#38 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 4.3 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.2 per 1,000 people

Compared to other states, Maine has a relatively low cost of divorce. Lawyers are not required to file for divorce, and most divorces never go to court, which makes it much easier to get divorced in Maine compared to states that have implemented more onerous restrictions, which may partially explain Maine’s high divorce rate.

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Maryland

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -29.4% (#35 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 3.4 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.4 per 1,000 people

Maryland has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. It also has one of the highest median incomes, which some researchers have suggested correlates to lower divorce rates.

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Massachusetts

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -25% (#40 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 2.8 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.1 per 1,000 people

Several factors insulate many in Massachusetts from divorce. Among these are the relatively higher ages at which Massachusetts residents marry, which has been linked to lower divorce rates, and stable finances, which have been shown to do the same.

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Michigan

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -34.9% (#28 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 4.3 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.8 per 1,000 people

Michigan’s divorce rates have doubled since introducing no-fault divorce laws in 1973. Some suggest that this makes divorce easier and therefore more likely, which contributes to the overall divorce rate in Michigan.

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Mississippi

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -50.9% (#7 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.7 per 1,000 people

Despite having some of the strictest divorce laws in the country, Mississippi also has some of the highest divorce rates. South Dakota and Mississippi are the only states that will not grant a no-fault divorce based on one-sided irreconcilable differences, and they usually go to court.

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Missouri

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -41.2% (#17 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.1 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3 per 1,000 people

Despite a decline in the number of marriages, divorce rates in Missouri remain stubbornly high. Some experts believe that the sharp decrease in the number of marriages can be attributed to the fear of the logistical and financial costs of divorce, which dissuades couples in Missouri from marrying in the first place.

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Montana

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -41.2% (#17 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.1 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3 per 1,000 people

Montana has a very low number of married residents compared to the rest of the country, meaning there are fewer marriages that have the potential to end in divorce. The state also has a lower per capita income than the country on average, which may contribute to a spike in divorces among couples feeling financial strain.

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Nebraska

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -27.5% (#37 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 4 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.9 per 1,000 people

Experts in Nebraska attribute the decline in the number of marriages with contributing to the decline of divorces. They posit that changing social mores have impacted the decline in marriages, and suggest that it is now common for couples to live together rather than marry—which means even if the union ends, it will not technically count as a divorce.

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Nevada

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -61.4% (#1 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 11.4 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 4.4 per 1,000 people

Perhaps unsurprising for the land of the quickie marriage, divorce rates in Nevada are higher than the rest of the country—just like rates of marriage. Some say that the culture of Las Vegas contributes to a relatively cavalier attitude about marriage, which has also resulted in shorter unions than in many other states.

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New Hampshire

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -34% (#29 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 4.7 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.1 per 1,000 people

Experts in New Hampshire divorce law say that the recession of 2008 created economic distress in the state that is still being felt in marriages and may have contributed to an increase in divorce rates. A 2015 law complicates divorce in the state, stipulating that when divorces go through, they are final and unable to be reversed by the courts.

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New Jersey

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -10% (#44 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 3 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.7 per 1,000 people

New Jersey’s demographics have at times contributed to its very low divorce rate, according to some experts. They point to the fact that New Jerseyans tend to marry older, earn more, and be more educated than the country at large, which can correlate with lower divorce rates.

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New York

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -12.5% (#43 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 3.2 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.8 per 1,000 people

New York’s divorce rates are some of the lowest in the country. But this isn’t necessarily because New York is particularly romantic—some believe the low divorce rates are because of the state’s onerous alimony laws.

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North Carolina

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -39.2% (#23 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.1 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.1 per 1,000 people

Citizens of North Carolina both marry and divorce at higher rates than the country at large. This fits with the overall demographic trend of southern states producing higher rates for both than their northern counterparts, perhaps because of social expectations.

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North Dakota

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -27.8% (#36 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 3.6 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.6 per 1,000 people

North Dakota has a high marriage rate and a low divorce rate. Experts attribute this unusual mix to the fact that the population is older and more stable adults with permanent jobs.

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Ohio

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -38.3% (#24 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 4.7 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.9 per 1,000 people

The city of Cleveland isn’t helping any marriages stay intact. The city ranked as one of the nation’s worst for divorce, and highlighted a number of other factors that may be stressing marriages: The city is also one of the most economically stressed, and one in which the population doesn’t get much sleep per night.

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Oklahoma

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -50.6% (#8 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 7.7 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.8 per 1,000 people

Researchers point to several factors to explain Oklahoma’s high divorce rate compared to the rest of the country. Among these is the fact that Oklahomans tend to marry younger than those in other states, which can correlate to a higher likelihood of divorce.

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Oregon

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -38.2% (#25 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.4 per 1,000 people

The city of Sheridan has the highest divorce rate in the country. Some believe that employment conditions may be partially responsible—the city’s largest employer is a federal prison, which may be stressful and contribute to tensions at home.

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Pennsylvania

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -21.2% (#42 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 3.3 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.6 per 1,000 people

In those counties in Pennsylvania where divorce remains high, some experts point to a rather mundane reason. The cost of filing for divorce in some of these counties remains incredibly low, which lowers the barrier to entry for those seeking a divorce.

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Rhode Island

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -21.6% (#41 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 3.7 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.9 per 1,000 people

Rhode Island has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. Experts suggest this may be because it is in the Northeast, which tends to have both lower marriage and divorce rates than states in the South.

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South Carolina

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -44.4% (#10 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 4.5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.5 per 1,000 people

Some attribute South Carolina’s declining divorce rate to the fact that it’s in the “Bible Belt,” and getting divorced is difficult. But others say it’s just a more thoughtful attitude taking hold in the state—both about getting married in the first place—and then about separating, that is keeping people together.

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South Dakota

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -29.7% (#33 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 3.7 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.6 per 1,000 people

An illuminating way to gain insight into factors impacting divorce is to look at Google searches in conjunction with the word divorce. South Dakota’s? “Bigamy”—the practice of marrying another person while you are still legally married—which South Dakota law prohibits.

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Tennessee

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -46.2% (#9 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 6.5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.5 per 1,000 people

Tennessee has one of the highest divorce rates in the country. Experts point to the fact that the state also has one of the highest poverty levels in the country and suggest that financial stressors may harm a marriage.

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Texas

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -52.7% (#6 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.6 per 1,000 people

One contributing factor to the decreasing divorce rates in Texas may be the high cost. Divorces in Texas cost 22% more than the national average, meaning couples may think twice before rushing to sever their unions.

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Utah

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -25.5% (#39 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.1 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.8 per 1,000 people

Several factors may contribute to Utah having the nation’s lowest divorce rate, including high economic growth and low working hours, but some also point to the divorce process itself. Couples looking to divorce in Utah are encouraged to partake in mediation before initiating proceedings, which may give them an opportunity to resolve their differences.

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Vermont

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -31.1% (#31 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 4.5 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.1 per 1,000 people

One reason Vermont’s divorce rate may be so low is because it has been called one of the worst states in which to get divorced. The state places onerous restrictions on couples looking to split, including a lengthy period in which they do not live together, which may cause some couples to find divorce more trouble than it’s worth.

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Virginia

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -29.5% (#34 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 4.4 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.1 per 1,000 people

The city of Roanoke is experiencing such a high rate of divorce that it is instituting drastic measures to quell the tide. Among these are “pre-engagement classes” for dating teenagers, and a proliferation of mediation experts and couples therapists dotting the landscape of the city.

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Washington

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -44.1% (#12 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.9 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.3 per 1,000 people

Money—of which tech-rich Seattle is highly aware—may be a reason divorce rates are on the decline in Washington. Some experts believe that couples fear selling their house at a loss or supporting a family on one income, as they may have to do in the aftermath of a divorce, and that for this reason, increasing numbers of people are choosing to stick together.

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West Virginia

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -37.7% (#26 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 5.3 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.3 per 1,000 people

Unhappiness isn’t a great recipe for a lasting marriage. And on this count, West Virginia doesn’t look like a sunny place for a long-lasting relationship. The state has ranked last on surveys of happiness in the United States, which some believe may contribute to its high divorce rate.

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Wisconsin

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -30.6% (#32 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 3.6 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 2.5 per 1,000 people

Although Wisconsin has one of the lower divorce rates in the country, this trend doesn’t apply to every city. The city of Tomah is “the divorce capital of Wisconsin” with nearly 20% of couples divorcing, which may be made easier by the state’s relatively lenient divorce laws.

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Wyoming

- Change in divorce rate 1990-2018: -42.4% (#15 biggest decrease among states with data)
- 1990 divorce rate: 6.6 per 1,000 people
- 2018 divorce rate: 3.8 per 1,000 people

Although citizens of Wyoming love marriage, they also frequently get divorced. And, in fact, they frequently get divorced more than once—the state has the highest rate of people married three or more times in the country.

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