The US Divorce Rate Is Not What You Think It Is

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A variety of changes in American society have affected the divorce rate.

True or false? Half of U.S. marriages end in divorce.

If you answered true, you’re wrong, but you’re definitely not alone in that thinking.

Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. divorce rate is actually going down, and it has been for quite some time. According to The New York Times, the divorce rate peaked in the early 1980s and has been on the decline since then.

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist.

It’s true that fewer people are getting married these days. That fact and a number of other factors, including getting married later in life and birth control, have helped reduce the divorce rate, the Times said.

The marriage trends aren’t entirely happy ones. They also happen to be a force behind rising economic and social inequality, because the decline in divorce is concentrated among people with college degrees. For the less educated, divorce rates are closer to those of the peak divorce years.

Seventeen percent of couples without a college degree who married in the early 2000s were divorced by their seventh anniversary. Just 11 percent of college-educated couples divorced during the same period, the Times said.

Marriage has changed over the years, from a breadwinner husband and homemaker wife to its “modern-day form, based on love and shared passions, and often two incomes and shared housekeeping duties,” the Times wrote.

Christine Whelan, director of the MORE (Money + Relationships + Equality) program in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Today that it’s important to remember that a long marriage doesn’t always signify a happy marriage. Whelan said:

“We say how low the divorce rates were back in the good old days. That does not mean that everyone was happily married and living together. They just didn’t file for divorce.”

Click here for more information from the Times on why the divorce rate is on the decline in the U.S.

Are you surprised that the divorce rate in the U.S. is on the decline and has been for 30 years? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Now, here’s a video about successfully combining money and marriage.

Stacy Johnson

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