By Molly O'Toole
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Men and women in the South have higher rates of divorce than any other region of the country, while those in the Northeast have the lowest, according to a Census Bureau report on Thursday.
Statistics from "Marital Events of Americans: 2009," show that in the South, per 1,000 men or women, divorce rates were 10.2 and 11.1 percent.
By contrast, Northeastern men and women had divorce rates at 7.2 and 7.5 percent.
The national divorce rate was almost 10 percent, at 9.2 for men and 9.7 for women.
The report is the first to examine and detail marriage, divorce and widowhood among Americans ages 15 and older, using data from the 2009 American Community Survey (ACS).
"Divorce rates tend to be higher in the South because marriage rates are also higher in the South," Diana Elliott, a family demographer at the Census Bureau, stated in the report's release.
"In contrast, in the Northeast, first marriages tend to be delayed and the marriage rates are lower, meaning there are also fewer divorces."
Fourteen states had above-average divorce rates for men and women. Southern states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas had divorce rates above the United States average for both genders.
For the 10 or so states that had below-average divorce rates for each gender, about half were in the Northeast.
States like Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York saw fewer divorces than average for men and women.
Divorces did impact the economic well-being of families.
Three quarters of children living with a parent who divorced in 2009 lived in a household headed by their mother.
Of women who divorced in the year studied, 23 percent received public assistance, against 15 percent of recently divorced men who received such assistance.
But such women also reported less household income than recently divorced men, with 27 percent having less than $25,000 in annual household income compared to 17 percent of recently divorced males.
They also were more likely to be in poverty; 22 percent of recently divorced women compared to 11 percent of such men.
Almost 30 percent of children living with a parent who recently divorced lived in a household below the poverty level, compared with 19 percent for other children.
Historically, data on U.S. marriages and divorces were collected from marriage and divorce certificates filed at the state level. According to the report, beginning in 2008, questions about marital events were added to the ACS to fill a void in the data collected in the United States.
(Editing by Jerry Norton)