Divorce Rates are Dropping Rapidly… You Might Be Surprised Why
By Tess Farrand, Staff Writer
Sadly, despite their vows, married couples don’t always stay together “until death do us part.” Divorce has plagued American culture for a few decades, splintering so many families in tragic ways. New research suggests that the divorce landscape is changing, largely because of millennials.
Research conducted by sociology professor Phillip Cohen (University of Maryland) follows the trends of American marriages and divorces using U.S. Census Bureau survey data. According to Cohen, divorce rates from 2008 to 2016 dropped 18%. In his findings, Cohen notes “One of the reasons for the decline is that the married population is getting older and more highly educated,” he continued, “Marriage is more and more an achievement of status, rather than something that people do regardless of how they’re doing.”
His data implies that millennials (born between 1981 and 1994) and generation X (born between 1967 and 1976) are waiting to have all their ducks in a row before settling down.
Fifty years ago, the trend was the opposite. Instead, baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) typically got married in their late teens or early twenties. Once married, couples experienced adventures like travel and big career changes as a unit rather undergoing these life changes as singles, like millennials are doing.
Cohen’s research probes the idea that millennials specifically are also being more selective about the partners they choose, perhaps because all of their “adventuring” is out of the way. With items like financial independence, internship and travel checked off the list, younger generations seem to settle down and, oftentimes, for good.
In contrast, baby boomers divorce rates doubled for people ages 55 to 64, and even tripled for Americans 65 and older from 1990 to 2005. Cohen coins the term “gray divorce” to detail the phenomenon.
Movies and TV are reflecting these trends too. In 2018, TV shows like THIS IS US and even the reality TV show, SAY YES TO THE DRESS, showcase mature couples in their late twenties or early thirties getting married. Additionally, movies like MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING echo Cohen’s findings: young adults are waiting to get married longer.
While millennials are waiting to get married, many are cohabiting and even having children with partners before choosing to get married. Ultimately, this lifestyle choice doesn’t help create future healthy marriages. Rather, it sees an increase in divorce.
Divorce declining is good news by all means, but we’d also like to see growth in young people choosing to marry or choosing to respect sex as a gift designed the confines of marriage. Data shows Generation Z may improve where millennials have failed in that area.