Michigan’s marriage rate consistently falls under U.S.;Half of Detroit’s population has never been married

Marriage is typically described as a formal union between a man and woman, although in recent years certain states have been moving to allow marriage between couples of the same sex. In order for a marriage to be legal a marriage license must be obtained. As can be seen in the data presented below, the rate of those choosing to join in this union has been declining over the last 10 plus years. The marriage rate for the U.S. has consistently remained higher per 1,000 people than the rates in Michigan and the Metro-Detroit area (Wayne County, Macomb County, and Oakland County). The divorce rate in the U.S. has also remained higher in the U.S. than in Michigan; this rate has also been declining over the years.

The declining marriage rate has widely been attributed to increased cohabitation between couples and the decision by couples to marry at an older age. In this post we will examine the marriage and divorce rates for the Metro-Detroit area, along with the breakdown of who has been married, widowed, divorced and never married in the area.

All data for this post was obtained from the Michigan Department of Community Health and 2011 American Community Survey (three year estimates). For the American Community Survey numbers, the population considered was male and female residents ages 16 and over.

While about half of Detroit’s population has never been married, data shows that males  more than females were more likely to be married. More females in the area were divorced. Depending on the area, between 20 and 50 percent of residents in the Metro-Detroit area were married in 2011. Overall though, marriage rates in the area have been decreasing.



Since 1999, Wayne County has had the lowest marriage rate per 1,000 residents of the seven counties that makeup Southeastern Michigan. After 2001, the marriage rate in Wayne County began to decline (going from 9.3 in 2001 to 9.1 in 2002); this overall trend continued until 2007 when the rate reached 7.3. Then, in 2008 the marriage rate began to increase, finally reaching 8.2 per 1,000 residents in 2011. With the exception of Monroe County, all counties in the region experienced an increased marriage rate in 2011 compared to 2010. St. Clair County had the highest marriage rate in 2011 at 11.4. The overall trend since 1999, however, shows a decreasing marriage rate.


Oakland County had the highest total percentage of married couples in 2011 at 51.3 percent; according to the American Community Survey. The City of Detroit on the other hand had the lowest at 21.7 percent. The state average was 48.8 percent.


According to the American Community Survey, there were a higher percentage of married males in from 2009 to 2011 than females. Oakland County had the highest percent of married males with 55 percent; Oakland County also had the highest percent of married females at 50.9 percent. Of the three counties examined, Wayne County had the lowest percent of married individuals (40.9 percent for males and 39.2 for females). Also, Detroit had the lowest percent married, for both males and females, of all the areas examined above. In 2011, 25.6 percent of Detroit males were married and 21.1 percent of Detroit females were married.


The divorce rate per 1,000 people for both the U.S. and the state of Michigan has seen an overall declining trend since 1990. However, from 2006 to 2008 there was a 1.8 increase for the U.S. The state of Michigan also experienced an increases  from 2000-2001, 2005-2006, and 2008-2009.

St. Clair County not only had the highest marriage rate for 2011, but it also had the highest divorce rate per 1,000 people of the seven county region. That rate was 7.9. Wayne County had the lowest divorce rate in area at 5.4.


The number of divorces in the Southeastern Michigan area has remained fairly consistent since 2000 (long-term trend information on divorce rates for Michigan counties was not available from the MDCH). Wayne County has experienced the most change of the seven counties in the region; there was a drop of 1,614 divorces from 2002 to 2003. Since then, there haven’t been more than 5,778 divorces in a year in Southeastern Michigan.


While there was an overall higher percentage of married males than females from 2009 to 2011 (as an average), the opposite was true for divorces. For Michigan, 12.3 percent of females were divorcees, compared to 10.4 percent of males.  The percent of both divorced men and women was highest for the City of Detroit, 11.5 and 13.2 percent respectively. Macomb County had the lowest percentage of divorced males and females, 9 and 12 percent respectively.


Detroit had the highest percent of unmarried residents (percent never married) from 2009-2011 for both males and females. According to the American Community Survey, in 2011, 55.5 percent of males in Detroit  ages 16 and older had never been married and 50.7 percent of females age 16 and older had never been married. Wayne County had the second highest rate of unmarried residents; 42.9 percent of males 16 and older and older had never married and 37.4 percent of females 16 and older had never married. Overall, there was a higher percentage of never married males than females.


Of the marital statuses examined in this post, the percent of separated married couples was the lowest. For the areas examined, the City of Detroit had the highest percentage of separated individuals. In 2011, the three year rolling average for the city was 3.8 percent for both males and females. Wayne County had the second highest percentage; 2.7 percent of female residents in the county were separated and 2.2 percent of males were separated. Oakland and Macomb counties were tied for the lowest percent of separated male residents at .9 percent; Oakland County had the lowest percent of females of at 1.2 percent.


The percent of widowhood is much higher for females than for males in all the areas examined in this post, with the exception of the state as a whole.  For the state of Michigan, 10.4 percent of males were widowers for the three year average from 2009-2011, and 9.7 of females were widows. For the City of Detroit, 11.2 of females were widows while 3.6 percent of males shared the same status.  Oakland County had the lowest percentage for both males and females who had lost their spouse; 2.3 percent of males were widowers and 8.9 percent of females were widows.