Are We Going to Stop Tracking Marriage and Divorce?

“In the past 12 months, did this person get: A) Married, B) Widowed, C) Divorced?”

This question is a normal part of the US Census questionnaire, and the data gained from the answers is used in a lot of research about marriage and divorce. However, the government is considering dropping that question (and others similar to it) for the next census. According to them, it is a “low benefit” question.

The Census is not the only source of marriage information, but it is one of the big ones, and some experts are saying that losing that data would not only affect divorce research, but could also spill over into research on income equality, expected population growth, retirement benefit information, and even some federal government policies.

From what can be gathered, the Census Bureau is proposing removing these questions because of pressure they are getting from Congress. The Census Bureau is required to justify the existence of every individual question, mostly due to increased scrutiny over privacy invasions. They are debating whether it would simply be easier to cut questions like this rather than argue for their validity. Six states already do not report their marriage data to the government, and have not done so for a decade.

The next US Census is not for another 5 years, but this change could go into effect in 2016 if the proposal is passed. It was open for public comment through the end of last year (2014), and the agency in charge of this is reviewing the data, getting ready to send their recommendation to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

It isn’t known how the OMB will rule, but the decision should come through shortly.