Michaels: Stats, lovely divorce stats, you'll be missed

When friends who defected to the minivan masses decide to don their Freudian cap and dig into my marital status,  I find solace and a bounty of ammunition with Statistics Canada.

"Around 43 per cent of you are doomed, dontcha know?" I say, silently making plans to catch up on eye-crossing facts and figures. "Are you sure it's wise to be so smug," I add…smugly.

The fairytale ending to this conversation is they buy lunch—maybe a present, too—sum up their survival rate with their "other halves" and decide to never embark upon such chitchat with their adored-and-whole friends ever again.

Thing is, they suddenly realize, clichéd talking points are a disappointment to the person they're speaking with and, more importantly, the nation's number crunchers.

Those poor accounting-types deserve more for spending hours compiling mind-bending and boring figures. Their work should be used as fodder for important things, like tracking social trends for future health care or housing needs, not as a verbal shield to wield over wine.

That was until last week, anyway, when those number crunchers became the big disappointment.

Statistics Canada announced last week they would be peeling back my one and only defence by doing away with marriage and divorce rates.

This turn of events stems back to the changing nature of marriage and a 2008 "strategic review" that indicated there had to be cost cutting. Apparently marriage stats cost $250,000 to keep.

That seems like a hefty sum, but they'd know best, considering marriage data has been collected in Canada since 1921 and divorce data has been on the books since 1972.

While I will lament the end of one of my favourite conversation pieces, more Canadians should be upset about the fact we're losing another tool to gain understanding of our culture and maintain a higher standard of civility.

The end of such data will make it difficult to assess how things, like the recession, impact divorce rates. It will also be harder to compare Canadian marriage or divorce rates with other countries.

Policy makers have already said they will have a tougher time assessing how marital breakdown is affecting child poverty, housing, education and health care, and which policies are most effective at keeping families together.

It's disconcerting how such a seemingly small thing can make such a big difference. But, strangely, be of less interest to the average person than their friends' personal lives.

Perhaps this will be my new, smug line of defence.


Until then, however, here are some stats to chew on:

43.1 per cent—Canadian marriages expected to end in divorce before the couple reach their 50th anniversary

26.8 per cent—Marriages expected to end in divorce before a couple in Newfoundland and Labrador reach their 50th anniversary

62.6 per cent—Percentage of marriages expected to end in divorce by the time a Yukon couple reaches their 50th

44—Median age for Canadian men at divorce in 2008

41—Median age for Canadian women at divorce in 2008.

Kathy Michaels is a reporter for the Capital News.


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