The Reasons behind the Falling Divorce Rate

It is almost common knowledge that around 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. When broken down by number of marriages: 41% of first marriages end in divorce followed by a 60% divorce rate in second marriages, and a 73 %divorce rate in third marriages. So, generally speaking, we see an increased rate in divorce in second and third marriages. At the same time, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that divorce rates for most age groups have been dropping since 1996 by an average of five percentage points.

What is the reason for the decline in divorces? Well, one reason is that people are waiting longer to get married and about a third of men and women ages 25 to 29 have never married. These numbers come from the report "Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces 2009." Couple this with the fact that it is no longer a stigma to cohabitate.

In 1996, 19% of 25- to 29-year old women who were once married later divorced, but only 14% in 2009 which account for a roughly 30% drop.

For 30- to 34-year old women, there was a smaller decrease of about 20%. However, the divorce rate of older women ages 60 to 69 increased in 2009 to nearly 37%, compared with 27% in 1996.

Looking back to the ‘70s, younger couples married after the divorce boom at that time when traditional marriages were shaken by an increasing number of women who entered the workforce, suggests Andrew Cherlin, a professor of public policy and sociology at John Hopkins University and author of "The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and Family Today." Divorces then peaked around 1980 and then began to level off.

Another reason for the decline in the divorce rate is that middle-and upper-class dual income couples tend to be more educated, says Cherlin, and their economic stability bodes well for the future of their marriages. While this is good news for well-educated couples, the opposite is true for their counterparts who lack a college degree. Kelly Raley, who studies marriage and family demographics as a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin says, the divorce rate "is not going down for people with just a high school degree. So we see this growing inequality in family in educational attainment."

The census found that the percentage of recently married women who have at least a bachelor's degree increased for 21% in 1996 to 31% in 2009.

In sum, Cherlin and Raley agree that the more education you have, the more likely you are to stay married.

And as mentioned earlier, people are waiting longer to get married. The median age for women to get married is 26 and 28 for men in 2009. And the percentage of men and women who never marry is increasing in most age groups.

Why the delay? "People are waiting till they are settled in a stable job to get married," according to Raley.

People feel more comfortable postponing their trip down the aisle thanks to the increased acceptability of cohabitation, says Cherlin.

For those who eventually get a divorce, it is found that the average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years and that people generally wait three years after a divorce to get married, it they get married at all.

Source: Divorce rates falling, report finds, By Lamar Clarkson, CNN

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