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Divorce Rates on the Decline, Study Says

Photo from Sandy Millar via Unsplash

Divorce Rates on the Decline, Study Says

By Movieguide® Contributor

The statistic that half of marriages end in divorce surfaced in the 1970s and has been the purveying message for decades. A recent study revealed that divorce rates are declining, and that statistic is no longer accurate.

“No longer do 50% of all marriages end in divorce. As a matter of fact, it is more like 35% – 39% of all marriages. The divorce rate trend has been sliding downward ever since its 50% peak,” the study said.

“Interestingly, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which sparked an onslaught of attention-grabbing headlines suggesting that the mandated stay-at-home lockdowns caused marital discord (and Covid-induced divorce) turned out to be largely false. Divorce rates have continued their steady decline even through the end of 2021.”

Forbes legal advisor Christy Bieber, J.D., took a deep dive into divorce trends over time, uncovering the downward trend of both divorce and unions.

“In 2000, a total of 944,000 divorces and annulments occurred. The crude divorce rate was 4.00 per population during that year. By 2021, it had fallen to 2.5 per 1,000 population, with just 689,308 people divorcing that year,” Bieber said. “The marriage rate has declined too, dropping from 8.2 per population in 2000 to 6.00 per population in 2021.”

This begs the question, what is causing the divorce rate to fall? While statistics vary between genders, economic status, occupation and region, one key factor is that people are waiting to wed later in their 20s.

“Those who are electing to get married are doing so at an older age – the average age of a marrying male is now up to age 30 and age 28 for a marrying female, up from ages 27 and 25, respectively, as recently as 2003. These marrying individuals are not only older, but they are also better educated – particularly women – more frequently possessed of bachelor’s and graduate degrees,” said Jennifer Enloe of Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP.

“Marriage, once considered an institution which protected women by providing legal and financial support from their male spouses, is no longer such a foregone conclusion for women of a marrying age.”

Another factor is the 2024 economic downturn, forcing couples to hold off on divorce. The cost of living crisis has delayed more than 270,000 couples from splitting, according to The Guardian.

“People always think financial pressures break couples up but they also keep them together. What with inflation and interest rate rises, it has put a lot of pressure on families because they can’t afford to sell and buy, because they can’t afford the new mortgage rates and they can’t afford to maintain two households, so a lot of people stay together,” said Neil Russell, the head of family law at Seddons.

Movieguide previously reported:

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.


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