This study presents patterns and trends in marriage and divorce among different population groups in Israel. The findings indicate a change in patterns primarily between 2015 and 2019, and suggest that Israel is becoming a society that is much less marriage-centered than in the past.
Identifying trends in marriage and divorce helps to understand evolving patterns of poverty, inequality, employment, welfare, and health. Historically, Israelis married at relatively higher rates than in other high-income countries, and Israeli society enjoyed the fruits of this norm. Without its high marriage rates, Israel would almost certainly have higher levels of inequality, lower life expectancy, and fewer happy people.
A drop in the marriage rate
In the years preceding COVID-19, Israel experienced notable declines in the Total Marriage Rate (TMR). Among Jewish women, the percentage of women expected to marry at least once by the age of 55 fell sharply from more than 80% in 2012–2014 to 70% in 2019. Among Muslim and Druze women, the rate fell to just under 75%. Among Christian women, the decline began earlier and it has been stable at around 70% since 2016. The TMR of Jewish, Christian and Druze men also declined between 2015 and 2019, falling below 70%. Among Muslim men, the decline began later. Between 2010 and 2016, it averaged 85%. By 2019, it had dropped to 78%.
For the most part, these declines are the result of an increasing number of people living alone. In other words, although the number of cohabiting (unmarried) couples increased over the 2013–2020 period, their share out of all couples remained stable at about 5%. This is much lower than the rate reported in other high-income countries in 2013: 12% in the US, 13% in Germany, 14% in Ireland, 21% in the Netherlands, 24% in Denmark, and 27% in Norway.
Divorce – stable among the Jewish population and increasing in other groups
The study reports that the divorce rate in the Jewish population between 2008 and 2019 declined from about 10 to 9.1 cases per 1,000 couples. More detailed focus on age-specific divorce rates shows particularly sharp declines under the age of 30, stability at the age of 30, and small increases over the age of 40.
In the Muslim population, divorce rates increased from about 6.5 per 1,000 couples between 2005 and 2007 to 8.2 in 2019, approaching the levels of the Jewish population. Under the age of 25, the divorce rate among Muslims is now significantly higher than that of Jews. Among those aged 25–39, the rates are lower than among Jews and have remained fairly stable, rising only moderately. Above age 40, rates have risen sharply.
Divorce rates have also increased among the Druze and Christians, albeit from a much lower starting point. Even with the increases, as of 2019, divorce rates in these populations were about 60% and 40%, respectively, of the rate in the Jewish population.