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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,030
July 8, 2020
Divorce Rates Are Falling
By Mike McManus

America's divorce rate is falling according to two different reports. The divorce rate dropped 18% between 2008 and 2016 according to the Centers for Disease Control.

TIME magazine's headline for this story was delightful: "The Latest Thing Millennials Are Being Blamed For Killing? Divorce."

"Americans under the age of 45 have found a novel way to rebel against their elders," TIME tartly asserted. "They are staying married." It pointed to new data that "younger couples are approaching relationships very differently from baby boomers, who married young, divorced, remarried and so on. Generation X especially." TIME cited the same 18% decline from 2008 to 2016.

"Generation X and especially millennials are being pickier about who they marry, tying the knot at older ages when education, careers and finances are on track." That's how the divorce rate fell by nearly one-fifth from 2008 to 2016, according to an analysis by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen.

However, the CDC also points out that America's marriage rate is declining - though not as much.

Even when Cohen adjusted for demographic shifts, like the age when people get married, he found an 8% drop. He added, "The regression models show no increase in adjusted divorce odds at any age."

TIME asserted that one reason divorce rates are falling largely because of other demographic changes "especially an aging population. Older people are less likely to get divorced, so maybe mellowing boomers were enough to explain the trend."

However, "Young people get the credit for fewer divorces because boomers have continued to divorce at unusually high rates, all the way into their 60s and 70s. From 1990 to 2015, according to Bowling Green's National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the divorce rate doubled for people aged 55 to 64, and even tripled for Americans 65 and older.

Cohen's results suggest this trend called "grey divorce," may have leveled out in the past decade, but "boomers are still divorcing at much higher rates than previous generations did at similar ages."

Yet national divorce rates are down overall. One reason is the "increasingly selective nature of marriage - which makes marriage more solid for the people who can swing it - people who are at high levels of economic interdependence."

Everyone else? Marriage might be a stretch for many to begin with. "The trends described here represent progress toward a system in which marriage is rarer and more stable, than it was in the past, representing an increasingly central component in the structure of social inequality," Cohen writes.

Susan Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, said of Cohen's analysis, "The characteristics of young married couples today signal a sustained decline (in divorce rates) in the coming years."

Sadly, however, many poorer and less educated Americans are opting not to get married at all. They're living together, and raising kids together, but are not tying the knot. Studies report that these cohabiting relationships generally do not endure.

My wife and I wrote a book, Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers, which details the extreme danger of couples cohabiting. The theory that couples living together before marriage could "test" their relationship - and thus avoid a bad marriage before it began - seems plausible. "If we live together first, we will really know if we're compatible."

However, we provided evidence that couples cannot practice permanence. Most cohabiting couples break up rather than marry. And of those who do marry, their divorce rate is actually higher than among couples who never lived together.

The good news is that divorce rates are down, because more couples have learned to make their marriage partnerships work. This is important not just for the couples - but for their children. Only marriage offers a secure home in which children can grow happily.

However, as noted above, marriage rates are down as well.

The fact that the divorce rate fell 18% is great news.

Every divorce is the destruction of a small civilization.


Copyright (c) 2020 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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