By Jennifer Workman, Esq.
It is no longer true that the divorce rate is rising, or that half of all marriages end in divorce. It has not been for some time. In fact, the divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since. About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (except in the case of death), which is up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are divorcing at even a lower rate. 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. There are many reasons for the drop in divorce, including later marriages, birth control and the rise of so-called love marriages. However, it is interesting to note that two-third of all divorces are initiated by women.
The decline in divorce rates is largely concentrated among individuals with college degrees contrasted to those individuals without a college education, in which the divorce rates from 50-65%. Of college-educated people who married in the early 2000s, only about 11 percent divorced by their seventh anniversary, the last year for which data is available. Among people without college degrees, 17 percent were divorced, according to Mr. Wolfers. Working-class families often have more traditional notions about male breadwinners than the college-educated families.
Some of the decline in divorce stems from the fact that less people are getting married — and some of the biggest declines in marriage have come among groups at risk of divorce. But it also seems to be the case that marriages have gotten more stable, as people are marrying later. The median age for marriage in 1890 was 26 for men and 22 for women. By the 1950s, it had dropped to 23 for men and 20 for women. In 2004, it climbed to 27 for men and 26 for women.
Moreover, the fact that most people live together before marrying means that more ill-fated relationships end in breakups instead of divorce. And the growing acceptance of single-parent families has reduced the number of shotgun marriages.
For more on why the divorce rate is on the decline, including an infographic illustrating the dip, head over to The New York Times.
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