The word “statistics” can be emotionally loaded. While many of us use statistics to rationally bolster an argument, others believe that statistics are primarily political and are too often misused, abused or completely made up. For research purposes, statistical data is only as valuable as it is accurate.

Two demographers made quite a stir lately when they asserted that over the past three decades, conclusions about trends in the U.S. divorce rate have been wrong because they have been based on poor-quality data and flawed data collection methods. In a new report these two demographers argue that since the 1970s, the U.S. divorce rate has been steadily rising and not falling as others have said.

National divorce data may not have many implications for individual couples. The overall health of U.S. marriages probably has little to no bearing on your decision to get divorced. But national data does tend to influence the decisions of policymakers, legislators and others who track and respond to large-scale demographic trends.

Although the divorce narrative of the past three decades may have been skewed by bad data and collection methods, a solution to these problems may already be in place. The U.S. Census Bureau annually conducts the American Community Survey. The survey group consists of a scientifically representative sample of the U.S. population. Therefore, it may be among the most accurate ways to track demographic trends. Since 2008, the ACS has included questions related to divorce. In time, this annual survey could provide much more insight into what’s truly going on in American relationships.

As mentioned above, statistics cannot necessarily inform your individual experience. The choice to stay married or get divorced is one that only you and your spouse can make.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Is the US Divorce Rate Going Up Rather Than Going Down?” Robert Hughes, Jr., Mar. 6, 2014