This is a favourite topic of mine - misinterpretation of complex statistics by simple reporters looking for a quick story - like the "historically high divorce rate". In this case Sue Shellenbarger of the 2008 March 21 WSJ writes "On average, 43 percent of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years, a federal study shows."
This presumably refers to last US Bureau of Census data for 2004 which shows that 56.9 percent of women married from 1985 to 1989 had reached their 15th anniversary, and from that, inferring that 43.1 percent had divorced or separated within 15 years of marriage.
Clearly there are a few problems: 1) The Survey took place in the summer so even assuming roughly equal monthly distributions of weddings, 1/10 women would be from 1-6 months shy of their 15th year anniversary! 2) Then there is the fact that widows do not choose divorce but have it thrust upon them and still count as "no longer married".
Adjusting for these facts reduces what should more properly be called the "Womens 15 yr Divorce Marathon Rate" to 33%. The trend for men - not surprisingly - is very similar - 31.2%.
This is also born out by looking at the incidence of US Divorces (rate per 1,000 married couples) which shows the rate of divorce peaked at 22.8 divorces per 1,000 married couples in 1979 and has fallen 16.7 in 2005 - its lowest level since 1970. So marriages that do occur are increasingly more stable and the Divorce Crisis is just a myth. I do not have similar data for Canada - but will make a point to find some soon.
But I think the real crisis is Official Marriage. As Wolfers clearly points out - Marriage incidence is declining and has in fact reached historic lows (with stats since 1860!). Many would argue that marriage has only been replaced by common-law cohabitation, but that is a difficult claim to disprove. The data collection of such statistics is still evolving - in particular as same sex unions become legal in US states.
But it does seem that U.S. couples who cohabit before marriage have been historically more likely to divorce than those who do not. Among those couples who were cohabiting in January 1997, slightly more than half were no longer together ﬁve years later and only a quarter had married.
Here is Justin Wolfers excellent academic article on the issue.
p.s The other article mentioned at Freakonomics is not worth agitating over - as mentioned in accompanied comments, Spanish parents merely appear to be "faking" divorce so they can gain benefits for their children.