Which Province Has the Highest Divorce Rate?

A while back I subscribed to the RSS feed for Statistics Canada. As you might imagine, the agency produces statistics and reports on a wide and occasionally bizarre array of stuff–fertilizer shipments, iron piping and so forth. As you know, these reports are regular fodder for journalists (and, uh, bloggers) hunting for low-hanging trend stories.

Today Statistics Canada released data on divorces across the country in 2005 (the newest year available, presumably). Using their handy data manipulation tool, I generated this chart:

Canadian divorce rates, 2005

So which province has the highest divorce rate? As you can see, it’s Alberta. I’m ignoring the northern territories, because the sample size is pretty small (Nunavut suffered all of 10 divorces in 2005).

Is Alberta a Red State?

What gives? Why are there 27% more divorces per capita in Alberta than in Saskatchewan? Is this like the US, where so-called conservative red states have a considerably higher incidence of divorce than blue states?

Here’s one thesis: people marry younger in Alberta, and the younger you marry, the likelier you are to get divorced. That’s disproved, though, because Saskatchewan has the lowest marriage age (27 for women, 29.3 for men) in the country as well as a low divorce rate. That’s the red state theory–earlier marriages combined with lower socio-economic standing and less education. Stereotypes aside, I don’t think those factors apply to Alberta.

Here’s another idea that sounds plausible: compared to other provinces, Alberta has a low immigration rate. New Canadians, particularly those from Asia, are less likely to divorce.

Why do you think Alberta has the country’s highest rate of divorce?

Incidentally, while looking through some Statistics Canada research, I found this chart. The rate of divorce is apparently highest for those married about 4.5 years. After that there’s a long decline (to quote Neil Young). Once you hit 40 years of marriage, your odds of divorce are roughly two in 1000.


  1. My theory is that the good-old-boy mentality (man as head of house, next to God; women should be barefoot in the kitchen) is higher in “red states” and at some point, their women wake up and smell the coffee. They can’t change but their women do, and at some point, it’s either divorce or premature death.

  2. I guess it’s not surprising. Alberta has a lot of recent wealth, and with affluence comes the mobility that can make a person less willing to put up with someone they’re not getting along with, and to move off to greener pastures.

  3. Just throwing this out there, but it could also be attributed to the number of workers that work away from their families. Many of those who work in the oil patch live away from their loved ones for several weeks at a time, which could put a strain on their relationships.

    With the oil boom in recent years, there was an even bigger influx of workers heading away from their families to work.

    (Also, I’m curious, if someone is married to someone who lives in another province and the couple divorces, which province would be listed as the site of the divorce? Perhaps people who moved here from out of province and left their families behind also went through divorces as a result. Would those count as Alberta statistics?)

    1. Gwen is right. Alberta also has the highest rate of domestic violence.

      Workers away from families and the fracture of families is one of the biggest problems in the province.

      It puts a huge strain on relationships and makes for poor family integration.

    2. The divorce would be listed in whatever province you filed the divorce papers in. I believe the rule is that you can file a divorce in the province where either spouse lives. I know this because I was married in Ontario, divorced in BC. When you file the divorce papers (in BC, this starts a legal proceeding in the Supreme Court of BC) the Court has to first notify a central office in Ottawa that tracks all divorce filings in Canada to make sure that the other spouse hasn’t already filed divorce papers in a different province… which I guess could happen if the couple separate and one moved to a different province. It’s a bit complicated because marriage & divorce are under provincial jurisdiction, but people (obviously) can move provinces between the time of the marriage and the time of the divorce.

  4. As soon as I saw the heading for this post I thought “I bet it’s Alberta”.

    If Canada has a red state, it’s Alberta.

  5. Darren, I’m basing my answer on observations on my life living here as well as stories that I’ve done working as a journalist on social issues in the province.

  6. Totally a red state. And also, totally a place where people are more focused on earning money than on having a good quality of life (to grossly generalize).

    I could keep speculating about my home province, but I don’t think I’d say anything that was terribly justifiable, so I’ll leave it there.

  7. I second Rahel’s comment. I recently divorced a man from Alberta who, despite pre-nuptial behaviour indicating otherwise, acted like a husband from the 50’s after we tied the knot. After 6 years it was divorce or inner death.

  8. Maybe the divorce rate just has to do with the fact that people are rushing into things so fast now a days that they don’t realize that the person they are marrying isn’t Mr/Mrs right. People are always throwing around numbers and statistics but the fact is that these numbers always change and the numbers aren’t going to change anything, they’re just another excuse for people to fall back on. Just because you’re from a certain place or because you married a certain way isn’t going to determine your marriage, what determines it is the amount of effort that BOTH people involved put into it. that’s what people need to look at, nit the friggin numbers or reasons for the numbers.

  9. I agree with the above. Alot of it has to do with the oilpatch and workers moving from other provinces. I live in a town of roughly 300 with an influx of people moving from the east and marrying people here or are leaving their family back home. People moving here to marry are consintatly leaving for home and coming back after every fight or there is a great strain with the distance between them and their family.

  10. It’s our disposable society we have created, don’t like your wife/husband- move on. Does everyone have a ‘best before date’ ? I am not surprised that Alberta has the highest divorce rate. As an educator, I am concerned about how our kids will manage relationships, and commitments when they never see their parents rebound from issues.
    People need to spend time problem solving instead of taking the easy route out of throwing in the towel…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: