Why do some States have higher divorce rates?


Less entrenched patriarchal norms, greater workforce participation of women could play a role

Are divorce rates growing alarmingly in India? That is certainly the claim, but we have little official nationwide data to back it. Anecdotal evidence from lawyers however does suggest that they see more cases now than they did a decade ago.

But some interesting — and sometimes counter-intuitive — geographical trends emerged in a 2016 study titled ‘Marriage dissolution in India’, published in Economic and Political Weekly. Here, economist Suraj Jacob and anthropologist Sreeparna Chattopadhyay looked at 2011 census data and found that, surprisingly, there was virtually no difference in dissolution rates — which includes divorce and separation rates — between rural India (0.82% of the married population) and urban India (0.89%).


There, however, emerged striking differences in divorce rates between States. For instance, several States in the south and the northeast reported higher rates of divorce than those in the north. While the divorce rate for India as a whole was 0.24%, it was as high as 4.08% in Mizoram. In Tripura, it was 0.44% and 0.32% in Kerala. The tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh recorded 0.34% and Gujarat 0.63%.

North vs. South

“In some of these States where rates are higher, patriarchal norms are less entrenched, women have greater workforce participation and support from their natal family — so the socio-economic penalty of divorce is lower,” says Chattopadhyay. Among the northern States, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana had particularly low rates of marriage dissolution.

Interestingly, the ‘separated’ population in India is three times the divorced population. “Considering that divorce is likely to be reported as separation because of the stigma associated with it, the real figures for divorce are likely to be higher,” she says.

Another trend was that women reported divorce three times more than men. These numbers probably come from the fact that women — especially those with children — do not remarry as frequently as men, says Chattopadhyay.

Where does India stand internationally when it comes to divorce? Somewhere in the middle, finds the study. While in India the divorce rate was 0.11% (of the total population), it was a low 0.04% in Georgia to a high 0.46% in Belarus.

“The reason we cannot accurately calculate the increase in divorce rates over time is that the 2001 census data looks at divorce and separation together, while the 2011 census presents them separately,” says Chattopadhyay.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 9:52:09 PM |

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