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There has been a "local" campaign in my neighborhood, recently, suggesting that young singles should only use shidduchim (matchmakers) when seeking to become married. Part of the "ad" campaign suggests that shidduchim have a high success rate of long marriages and a happy family life.

I am somewhat skeptical that this is true. I've read, heard about, and even seen many cases of marriages that had been arranged by shidduch that ended in divorce within 3 - 5 years (some last as little as 1 month!) I don't think that the shidduch marriage has a significantly more or less marriage longevity rate than other setups such as couples meeting each other somewhere, or online dating methods.

I'd like to submit a letter to the editor refuting this claim, but, I'd like to know if any reliable organizations have provided recent reliable statistics on this trend.

Per @Daniel's question (a good one!) For now, I'd limit it to Jewish marriages done by professional matchmakers only; not those arranged by family / friends or a rabbi on an individual or infrequent basis. By "professional" this could be via a shadchan(it) or online or on-site "service" that does this as their business. I think that the "ad" campaign implies using professional matchmakers, i.e shidduchim. . (Yes, I know that there is prob. marketing "bias" in making this claim, which is one of my motives to attempt to refute it! I'm not keen on frum people making money from gullible believers.)

Note: - for purposes of this question, I'm interested only in marriage / divorce stats. I know of many couples that remain in awful, sometimes dangerous abusive marriages. While, I don't suggest that this is always the best idea, for purposes of the stats I'm seeking, such situations would be out of scope. I may seek a separate study on this issue, later.

  • This article suggests that rates of divorce are significantly lower among practitioners of arranged marriage; however, it does note that that this is likely at least partially a result of the fact that many cultures that practice arranged marriage think very negatively of divorce. It also seems to be discussing marriages where the partners have no say in the matter, which is not the case in Jewish matchmaking. – Daniel Oct 19 '15 at 17:40
  • @Daniel: That article is bunk. The divorce rate is definitely higher than 4% by arranged marriages. – Gershon Gold Oct 19 '15 at 18:16
  • @GershonGold Yes, it is an unsourced claim. In any case it seems to be talking about a different kind of "arranged marriage" from what we are talking about here. – Daniel Oct 19 '15 at 18:28
  • I think the question ought to be expanded like which is the correct way to find a spouse, the litivish way through "dating" or the chasidish way through a "beshow". – newcomer Apr 11 '16 at 8:15
  • @newcomer That's a very different question, and I think there are various questions on Mi Yodeya that have answered it. If you're addressing the shidduch "crisis", which, IMO, is false or exaggerated, but, I'll grant you benefit of doubt, again, this is a separate question on how people should properly prepare for marriage. IMO, a bad, abusive, negligent marriage can be far more harmful than no marriage at all. Abusive people should limit harm to themselves rather than others, or better, learn to be supportive to themselves AND others. – DanF Apr 11 '16 at 14:47
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It is very difficult to find accurate statistics on divorce, and differences between countries are so great that any answer can only be useful from a specific countries' perspective. Finding prevalence statistics specifically focused on shidduchim is even harder. On of the problem of using divorce statistics is that part of the high reported rates of divorce is that people who get divorced also can remarry, and remarriages tend to be less stable than first marriages. This inflates the overall divorce statistics.

A published study by Kennedy and Ruggles in 2014 seems to suggest that the high rates of divorce have dropped after the 90's (as defined as the percentage of ever-married persons who have ever been divorced or separated, as opposed to the incidence of divorced. Their study shows that in 2010 the divorce rate amongst people aged 20-24 is around 15%, and steadily climbs to about 45% peaking at ages 50-54.

“Like the statistics on the incidence of divorce shown in Fig. 4, the prevalence statistics in Fig. 5 show a decline in marital instability from 1980 to 2010 among younger ever-married people. This decline is more than cancelled out, however, by a massive increase among persons in their 50s. By 2010, almost one-half of ever-married persons had been divorced or separated by the time they reached their late 50s. The shifting age pattern of divorce suggests a cohort effect. The same people who had unprecedented divorce incidence in 1980 and 1990 when they were in their 20s and 30s are now in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. The Baby Boom generation was responsible for the extraordinary rise in marital instability after 1970. They are now middle-aged, but their pattern of high marital instability continues. As Brown and Lin (2012) pointed out, part of this may simply be a consequence of the high divorce rates that they experienced earlier in life, given that remarriages tend to be less stable than first marriages.”

source: Kennedy S, Ruggles S. (2014). Breaking Up Is Hard to Count: The Rise of Divorce in the United States, 1980–2010. Demography, 51(2), 587-598. doi:10.1007/s13524-013-0270-9.

These rates contrast somewhat with the closest study that specifically focuses on the demographics of religious groups and that is the 2014 pew religious landscape study.

It reports that 9% of the american jewish population is divorced or separated, but this number is difficult to compare to other studies, because it merely surveys who is married and who is divorced, and is not comparable to a divorce rate.

More problematic is that it doesn't answer your question about the success of shidduchim, because this statistic (or the pew study in general) distinguishes between jews who used matchmakers and jews who found partners 'naturally'. I am not aware of many studies that focus on divorce rates in marriages due to shidduchim. The one that I know of shows the rate of divorce in Israel (not comparable with the numbers shown above) and then: only in the haredi community, which is such a specific community that it is very difficult to extrapolate it to the larger jewish community that makes use of shidduchim. It would seem that in this specific haredi population in Israel the divorce rate is relatively low: lower than found in most other western countries. Caution must be excercised in comparing the rates, because the haredi community is different in many respects to the general (jewish) populations that are part of census data in other countries.

The study by Greenberg, Buchbinder and Witzum in 2012 cites a study from 1995 and states:

“Consistent with these values, the population census carried out in Israel in 1995 found that being single was relatively rare in the ultra-orthodox community: among those aged 25–34, 12% of ultra-orthodox males were single in contrast with 35% of non-ultra-orthodox males, while only 5% of ultra-orthodox females were single in contrast with 20% of non-ultra-orthodox females. Although it is not difficult to divorce in ultra-orthodox society, the sanctity of marriage (and the difficult aftermath of divorce for a couple with many children) may contribute to the relative rarity of divorce: in the 1995 census, 1.3% of ultra-orthodox males were divorced in contrast with 3% of non-ultra-orthodox males, while 1.5% of ultra-orthodox females were divorced in contrast with 6% of ultra-orthodox females. Further, the average age at first marriage for ultra-orthodox males was 21.3 years (27.2 for non-ultra-orthodox males), and for ultra-orthodox females it was 19.9 years (24.8 years for non-ultra-orthodox females) (Gurovich & Cohen-Kastro, 2004). “

source: Greenberg, D., Buchbinder, J. T., & Witztum, E. (2012). Arranged matches and mental illness: therapists’ dilemmas. Psychiatry, 75(4), 342-354.

So, to try to answer the question; No, it does not seem to be that there are recent statistics. The closest peer-reviewed shidduch-specific statistics seem to be around 20 years old, and people with access to israeli census data might find more recent data. Regardless, it seem that in haredi communities divorce rates after arranged matches are low, but it is nigh impossible to extrapolate this to the broader community of jews that use shidduchim, and difficult to compare them to non-shidduch marriages and countries.

In the end, even if there would be data that would allow for in-country in-cohort comparisons of the succesrate of marriages between shidduchim and 'regular' marriage, the problem would still be that no such comparison on natural groups can be made in good conscience. To say that one factor is the actual cause of an observed phenomenon ideally one would have two groups that are exactly alike and in which only the supposed cause varies. In natural groups this is not the case. The community that uses shidduchim is notably different from other groups in the values they hold, family dynamics, etc. No amount of statistical correction can truly remove these systematic differences between groups. Any comparison should be made with great caution

  • I scanned through the answer. Verythorough. I have to digest some of these items, to offer better feedback on it. – DanF Apr 17 '16 at 21:54

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