US study links divorce rates to economy

Divorce|News|January 31st 2014

The divorce rate increases when economies recover, a new study suggests.

Sociologist Philip N Cohen from the University of Maryland looked at links between economic conditions and the divorce rate. He found that US divorce rates dropped after the beginning of the economic downturn, falling from just under 21 divorces per 1000 married women in 2008 to 19.5 divorces in 2009. But the rate began to increase again the following year, reaching 19.8.

Cohen is unconvinced by claims that economic adversity strengthens relationships, suggesting instead that a proportion of couples affected by the recession simply could not afford to divorce. He estimates that the downturn prevented approximately 150,000 divorces in the US between 2008 and 2011: a four per cent decline in the national rate.

The researcher said: “History shows that fluctuations in divorce rates resulting from changing economic conditions may reflect the timing of divorce more than the odds of divorce.”

Fellow sociologist Andrew Cherlin supported this assessment,  telling the Los Angeles Times:

“This is exactly what happened in the 1930s. The divorce rate dropped during the Great Depression not because people were happier with their marriages, but because they couldn’t afford to get divorced.”

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