Googling divorce more

On second thought.

In my last look at Google trends for divorce, I graphed searches for “divorce attorney” and “divorce lawyer,” and said they were “basically flat except for seasonal variation, and some turbulence in 2008.” I think I’ve improved the method, and now it looks to me like there is an increase in divorce-related Google activity starting in 2008 or 2009.

The Google Correlate tool reports the 100 search terms that are most highly correlated with the one you enter. I used the temporal search, which shows the terms that had the most similar weekly variations in search volume. For example, using “divorce lawyer,” you get many closely related terms, starting with “divorce attorney,” which is correlated with the search term at .96. But if you keep going down the list you start to get into searches about real estate, such as “rent in las vegas,” which is correlated at .80. Since 2003, you can see that in weeks when “divorce lawyer” is searched more or less (on the x-axis), “rent in las vegas” has been searched more or less as well (y-axis).

That might be because people who are thinking about divorce are also looking for places to rent, especially in Las Vegas where the real estate crisis is severe. But it might be more random than that. The fluctuations in both terms are seasonal (with more activity in summer and a sharp drop in December), and follow a similar longer-term trend (rising a little from 2003 to 2006, then pretty flat before a spike in summer 2010):

Is this “real,” or is it essentially random, the result of looking at a billion trends to find something that fits? Internet searches are related to things in the news, search habits, as well as macro and micro fluctuations in social behavior. To increase confidence in this method, I did some combining of terms. See if you like this.

I did a search for “divorce.” (You can try it here.) Among the top 100 related terms, I grouped them into 6 logical categories. The divorce category included these:

  • laws in north carolina
  • filed for divorce
  • file for divorce
  • file divorce
  • filing for divorce
  • attorney search
  • laws in florida
  • after divorce
  • spousal support
  • custody laws
  • custody laws

Since the terms are all highly correlated with “divorce,” not surprisingly, averaging them all together creates a more stable measure centered around the same trend, like this:

This less noisy trend of related terms gives me more confidence that whatever is happening, it’s about divorce at least (the numbers are scaled so that the overall averages are 0.) So this is how I get to feeling uncertain about my characterization of the trend in divorce search terms as “basically flat.” Now it looks like it rose in the last two or three years. Plus, the seasonality has changed.

Christmas dip?

The graph above shows the seasonality of the “divorce” search. Most regular — at least through 2008 — is a Christmas dip, in which searches on divorce are at their annual lows in mid-December.

But after the upward spike in divorce-related searches in the summer of 2009, there was no real Christmas dip for the next two years. Here is the average search level for weeks starting between December 1 and December 25 (remember, 0 is the overall average):

The seasonal regularity of divorce searches appears to have ruptured in the year after the financial crisis.

But what to make of this? Not too much, yet, I’m sorry to say. Remember that the divorce rate was falling from 2003 to 2009,so that doesn’t square with what looks like a slight upward trend in Google searches for “divorce.” But if there is a break in the search behavior around 2009 that might support the image I have of divorce pressure building up behind a levee of real estate and unemployment barriers that limit people’s options for breaking up and moving out.

Anyway, I hope that eventually someone will figure out how to predict or better understand hard-to-predict demographic trends, like divorce and fertility, using data like this.

Addendum: warts and all

So what are the other 5 logical categories of search terms most closely correlated with divorce? The fact that they group so easily suggests they’re not just random, but rather reflect the deep temporal structure of divorce searches. But, what do they mean? I called the categories animals, housing, jobs, marriage, medical and repairs, and together with the divorce terms they comprise 84 out of the top 100 correlated terms with “divorce.” These are the lists:

Animals

  • kill animal shelters
  • no kill animal shelters
  • veterinary hospital
  • disease in dogs
  • veterinary center
  • veterinary care
  • flea control for cats

Housing

  • public property
  • rent in nyc
  • living communities
  • residential lease agreement
  • apartments tampa
  • month to month rental
  • astoria new york
  • rental lease agreement

Jobs

  • application for employment
  • administrative assistant job description
  • license appointment
  • test for college
  • license verification
  • placement test study guide

Marriage

  • anniversary gifts for parents
  • after marriage
  • party invitation wording
  • songs for weddings

Medical

  • abdomen
  • allopurinol
  • antifungal
  • appetite stimulant
  • back pain
  • blood sugar levels
  • blood sugar symptoms
  • bumps on skin
  • complaints
  • dehydration symptoms
  • heel of foot
  • hip pain
  • hospital doctors
  • hospital oklahoma city
  • lightheadedness
  • low blood sugar symptoms
  • melanoma pictures
  • muscle spasms
  • muscle twitching
  • pain medication
  • patient assistance
  • patient assistance program
  • pinched
  • pinched nerve
  • rash pictures
  • rehabilitation center
  • replacement surgery
  • skin cancer pictures
  • spasms
  • strengthening exercises
  • university health system
  • warts on feet
  • weight gain during

Repairs

  • coit carpet
  • coit carpet cleaning
  • compressor parts
  • cresco rentals
  • door replacement
  • installation cost
  • old republic home warranty
  • refrigerator problems
  • refrigerator troubleshooting
  • refrigerators for sale
  • republic home warranty
  • shades for windows
  • sliding glass
  • sliding glass doors
  • upholstery repair

When you average the search frequencies within each of these groups, they are highly correlated with the divorce group — between .94 and .96. Again, this is from a combination of similar seasonality (low in December, high in summer) and longer-term trends (rising, then peaking in 2009-2010). Here’s their scatter plot:

OK, I think you have enough information now to figure this out. Thanks!

9 Comments

Filed under Me @ work

9 responses to “Googling divorce more

  1. Google correlate? What’ll they think of next. Super-interesting post (as usual), but this is a methodological bonus that will help with a search puzzle of my own. Thanks!

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  2. amv

    This is an amazing post.

    Like

  3. I wish I had a legitimate excuse to use it like Tina. Instead, I see today being less productive than I hoped. I’ll have to reward myself with it after I finish this paper.

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  4. Pingback: Correlates of Google Search Term “Divorce” « Joseph Nathan Cohen

  5. What a riot. I wonder if the Las Vegas – divorce correlation really is a matter of cheap housing prices, though.

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  6. Pingback: Divorce, handguns, Obama, Top Chef, Tea Party « Family Inequality

  7. This article plainly depicts the interrelationship of things on this planet. Why not? It’s a small world. It is almost synonymous to describing the two sides of a coin as in having a hair strand-thin difference. It is not really surprising to note later that a good marriage has ended up in divorce. Relationships of term may vary but all boil down to one thing: to nothing. Why then, should there be discrepancies, quarrels, chaos, etc., what good will it do without realizing that they look funny and childish with aimless pursuits.
    However, it could make a big difference if there’s agape love. It shall create a huge turn on how people perceive things around them including relationships with other.

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  8. Pingback: Google searches foretold Census report of divorce increase? « Family Inequality

  9. Pingback: Google correlations review « Family Inequality

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