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divorce-rate A measure designed to provide information on the comparative propensity to divorce in different populations. The crude divorce-rate for a particular year is calculated by dividing the number of divorces occurring within a population over the year, by the average or mid-year population for that year, expressed times 1,000. However, as in the case of the crude birth-rate, this measure takes no account of the age-structure of populations, and therefore of the population at risk. A more refined measure divides the number of divorces by the number of marriages in a given year (times 1,000).

The divorce-rate is sometimes used as an indicator of social stress in a society. However, in countries where separation characteristically precedes formal legal divorce, divorce-rates are increasingly less relevant as a measure of the actual experience of individuals in a population. See also MARRIAGE.