Back in the early 1980s, statistics said 50 percent, or even slightly more, of all U.S. marriages ended in divorce. That threshold – half of all marriages breaking down – deeply affected people. The number seemed to burrow its way into the American psyche. Even today, in the midst of a 35-year decline in divorce rates, many still believe that a majority of marriages disintegrate even though experts now say just 39 percent of marriages will end in divorce.
The declining divorce rate sounds like good news. Marriages must be getting stronger, right? It turns out that the reality is a little more complicated.
Divorce Statistics Can Be Deceiving
According to a paper published by University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen at the end of 2018, the divorce rate between 2008 and 2016 declined by 18 percent. But, Cohen says, the drop isn’t the result of people being happier and staying married longer. The data instead show that younger couples, specifically millennials, are approaching the entire idea of marriage much differently, and their approach is altering the divorce rate.
The study showed millennials are getting married less often. And you can’t get divorced if you never get married. “Fewer people are getting married,” Cohen says, “and those who do are the sort of people who are least likely to get divorced. The married population is getting older and more highly educated. Marriage is more and more an achievement of status, rather than something people do regardless of how they’re doing.”
Sociology professor Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University points out that the decline in divorce rates is most prominent among college graduates. That’s because college graduates tend to focus on their careers first, taking time to establish a relatively stable financial base for themselves before getting married.
Cherlin also notes an important byproduct of this financially driven patience. By waiting, people also become older. “If you’re older, you’re more mature … making it less likely that you’ll get into arguments with your spouse” that are so severe as to threaten the marriage itself.
But the choice to postpone or even avoid marriage isn’t just seen among highly educated groups. Many poorer and less educated Americans are choosing to skip marriage as well. Cohabiting is on the rise, as is raising children while living together but opting not to get married.
Legal Advice for Divorcing or Never-Married Individuals
Are you facing divorce in Texas? Or perhaps you’re unmarried but you have children and need help with custody arrangements. Whatever your family law need, the lawyers at the Fort Worth office of The Schneider Law Firm are here to help. Call 817.755.1852 or contact us online.