Examining Patterns in Divorced Life Expectancy by Race: An Application of a Bayesian Approach to Sullivan’s Method

J. Scott Brown, Miami University
Scott M. Lynch, Princeton University

A considerable body of research has examined changing divorce rates over the last 40 years. Recently, divorce rates have stabilized at a fairly high level, suggesting that individuals may spend a significant proportion of their lives in a divorced state. However, little has examined how long individuals can expect to spend divorced over the life course. In this study, we use a Bayesian approach to Sullivan’s method (1971) of life table estimation to examine divorced life expectancy differences between blacks and whites across a wide range of birth cohorts. Our data come from the 1982-2000 General Social Surveys (GSS) linked to 1982-2000 vital statistics mortality data. We find that blacks, despite being less likely to marry, can expect to spend both more years, and a higher proportion of their remaining years, in a divorced state. The results also suggest that the racial gap in divorced life expectancy has expanded across birth cohorts born from 1900 to 1960.

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Presented in Session 39: Family and Health over the Life Course