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Divorce Depression Turns Around

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By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

The Divorce rate was depressed by seven percent when the great recession hit; and then slowly started to rise as the recovery began. From 2009 to 2011, about 150,000 fewer divorces occurred than would otherwise have been expected, sociologist Philip Cohen estimated.

The American divorce rate among married women dropped by 7%; from 2.09% to 1.95% from 2008 to 2009, then crept up to 1.98%  (still down 5%) in both 2010 and 2011 according to a study to be published in Population Research and Policy Review; and reported in the L.A. Times (1/28/14)

Cohen cautioned that the exact reasons behind the economic ebb and flow of divorce were still murky. His study found that unemployment, state by state, had no apparent effect on divorce rates; other research examining earlier periods had found the opposite.

Cohen did find that joblessness seemed to cut down divorce for college graduates — but statewide foreclosures pushed up divorce rates for college grads.

Marriage rates were also depressed by the great recession but they have already  been in decline for many years.

Barely half of all adults in the United States—a record low—are currently married, and the median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7), according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data released 12/14/11.

In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are. If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years. Other adult living arrangements—including cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood—have all grown more prevalent in recent decades.

Since couples living together split up more frequently than married couples, the actual divorce rate including unmarried couples that split up is even higher.

The Pew Research analysis also found that the number of new marriages in the U.S. declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010, a sharp one-year drop that depressed many wedding consultants.

The United States is by no means the only nation where marriage has been losing “market share” for the past half century. The same trend has taken hold in most other advanced post-industrial societies, and these long-term declines appear to be largely unrelated to the business cycle. The decline marriage rates have persisted through good economic times and bad.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com


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