The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On

The high divorce rate of the late 1970s and early 1980s is starting to look like a historical anomaly, not a trend.

Comments: 269

  1. Don't forget to consider today's social acceptance of homosexuality, making it now unnecessary to marry to protect one's sexual identity from the world, avoiding grief to both spouses that was resolved by divorce.

  2. And your point will be doubly strong if gays and lesbians can marry for love, thereby increasing the number of potentially successful marriages in the same moment as decreasing the number of probable unsuccessful ones.

  3. OK, but homosexuals make up a small percentage of the population, so that would have a small impact on overall divorce rates.

  4. And don't forget that everyone was screaming that marriage equality was going to destroy "traditional" marriage. So I guess the courts - meaning SCOTUS - will have to weigh this hysteric claim for exactly what it's worth: zero.

  5. Inequality fosters divorce
    No job and there is no recourse,
    When there comes the day
    Of a job and high pay,
    Divorce will be stopped at the source.

  6. Actually, Larry - exactly to opposite is true.

  7. Larry this is backwards. Divorce fosters inequality. Get educated, get married late. Have one kid and one house and one wife> Not that hard Mr. Eisenberg.

  8. Interesting story, but there may be a back story here as well. Better educated people usually have more resources and the more you have the more you can lose in a divorce. I think that fear of losing material things, including money and a home, play a big role in people staying together, even if they don't want to.
    The bottom line is that many people (in the 1970s and 1980s as well as today) got married for the wrong reasons to the wrong people. Some choose to stick it out for the sake of the kids or the aforementioned financial issues and some decided to toss in the towel. Then again, some people are simply very happy with their chosen mate.

  9. Marriage is an anachronism that will continue to fade from our culture. While the divorce rate may be dropping, a smaller percent than ever of Americans are married. The largest share of the adult population in history has never married. All this article is pointing out is that fewer people are making mistakes.

    Here's hoping the bland misery of waking up next to just one person for the rest of one's life continues to fade as we all learn to enjoy the company of many of our fellow citizens.

  10. @Mike - You forgot about the fact that single men are at risk for horrible problems like loneliness, depression and mental issues, drug use, health problems, crime, STDs, and dangerous behavior. Statistics bear out the fact that single men are marginalized as a group and have severe issues.

  11. And I was just thinking this morning of how much I love waking up next to my husband of 40 years.

  12. Marriage has been going on for millennia. And there are more cultures than ours.

  13. Maybe for a few years the number of divorces in a given year was 50% of the marriages for that year but that never meant that 50% of _all_ marriages ended in divorce, but that is how the media and the public at large (incorrectly) understood it. At no point was the general chance of any marriage ending in divorce ever 50%.

  14. I don't know how else you would measure it. If that trend had kept up, eventually, the general chance of getting divorced would reach 50%. It didn't, of course, but it won't be the first time statistics have been abused, usually unwittingly.

  15. There is so much talk about the divorce rate as opposed to the percentage of happy marriages (which is subjective, I admit). Are people choosing better mates? Has marriage becomes more fulfilling? Or are more people feeling stuck in their marriages and for varying reasons aren't willing to leave the marriages? I don't think we can accept the divorce rate as a stand-alone indicator of the health of marriages.

  16. This article paints an uplifting picture of American culture, but sadly misses the larger picture. In fact, marriage is now an upper class institution.

    Most lower and working class people no longer get married. They have children outside of marriage, often with multiple partners over time. So, when you look across all classes, the picture is less encouraging.

  17. The article directly addresses this issue.

  18. You did not discuss a basic issue - - how many divorces reflected in the study are first marriages ? Perhaps the reduction in the last decade is because divorces took place previously and when people remarry their circumstances and expectations are different, leading to fewer divorces the second time around ...

  19. Actually the research shows exactly the opposite; the divorce rate for second or third marriages is significantly greater than for first marriages. According to the Census Bureau, 60 percent of second marriage and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce.

  20. We'd prefer to wring our hands over the breakup of the American family. Don't confuse us with reality. We don't have time for reality. After all, something must be wrong.
    We have people to blame and an agenda to impose.

  21. reality: feminism killed the american family. they decided that having a career also means not being a "wife". and decided that being a housewife and mother was suddenly an oppressive system, regardless of the woman's personal choice. if she is a stay at home mom, OPPRESSION!!!!!

    the biological realities say that women should focus on a family and kids first and a career later, whereas for men the reverse is more true (just look at the stats on personal values for time spent for men when comparing 18-35 and 36-50, it shifts quite a bit.) but feminism has decided that choosing family first and career later is "patriarchy" or whatever nonsense they call it. women become more logical and more competitive with age, men become less.

    maybe i'm just crazy but it seems to me our own hormonal biology is saying "women have a family and kids first then a career later. men have a career first to provide for your family, then retire and spend time with them while your wife pursues her goals and career.)

  22. Yes, first your wife should be a mother, a housekeeper and a cook for you and then she support you in retirement. Bravo. You're not crazy, you're just trying to have it all.

  23. FTA: “Two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women,” said William Doherty, a marriage therapist and professor of family social science at University of Minnesota,

    I'd love to know where he gets these statistics. I can't find anything more recent than 1988.

    That's the last year the National Center for Health Statistics has data for. And even then, year by year, the percent of divorces initiated by women steadily dropped.

    The American Law and Economics Review article that a lot of people quote falls back on the National Center for Health Statistics data.

    There's an AARP study that has 66% of divorced women saying they initiated their divorce, but on the same page and the same graph, it has only 39% of divorced men saying their wives had initiated their divorce, so I don't think we can take that 66% number at face value.

    I wonder if this 2/3 thing is one more statistic that everyone knows that ain't so. If Dr. Doherty has more recent stats, I hope he'll share them.

  24. "it has only 39% of divorced men saying their wives had initiated their divorce"

    Sounds like someone doesn't want to admit the truth. Using a subjective survey, I'd say its problematic drawing conclusions. A better approach isn't to ask the people themselves who initiated it but to check actual divorce records. My suspicion is many men don't want to admit their wives ditched them. Hurts the ego.

  25. based on the most recent stats for the western states, based on IRS filings between 2012 and 2013, 53% of marriages made between 1995 and 2012 ended in divorce. based on a study done by the sociology dept at UCLA in 2013 that did a sample of divorce filings from california, nevada, utah, oregon, washington, idaho, colorado, texas, montana, and wyoming 67.3% were filed by the female partner in the relationship.

    of those 74% cited dissatisfaction as the reason for filing.

    take from that what you will.

  26. Good point. My ex-husband "initiated" a relationship with another woman. When I discovered this, I "initiated" a termination of his relationship with me. So really, which one of us should be credited or blamed for starting a divorce?

  27. We know lots of folks from a rural background with no more than high school education: they often are skilled at a trade like carpentry or sheet rocking etc.
    They do not marry although they often have long term relationships and children. The men are terrified of divorce because of the cost and because of "child support". Working class men do not want to give their ex wives money because they believe their ex wife will take a new lover and spend the money on him instead of on their kids. The solution? No formal marriage. There is also a trend among upper-middle class men and women to live together without formal marriage. In one case it was because his credit was bad. In another it was because he was older and she didn't want to have to pay for his medical expense. In other cases it's because of income from a previous marriage that would end with remarriage. And sometimes the man and woman are very committed emotionally but want to preserve financial independence. But in these cases I have never known underage children to be part of the package.
    Each man and woman is negotiating his/her own relationship instead of following a strict social pattern. This is part of "freedom". No?

  28. I hope those rural men understand that even if they do not marry the mothers of their children, they can be legally required to support those children.

  29. Why have children with someone if you are not committed to them? These things don't "just happen" sometimes. It is pretty easy these days to have sex and not reproduce. If you want to have a kid, you should find someone you love and are willing to raise a child with, I would even go as far as saying that you should probably marry them I guess I just don't understand some people as there are indeed many roads that lead to happiness. Some roads are just filled with far more obstacles.

  30. One problem with your theory is that child support is completely unrelated to current or previous marital status. You bring a child into the world, you have an obligation to at least minimally provide for its welfare. You aren't "free" to decline to follow that social pattern.

  31. Perhaps the article did say this; if so, my apologies.

    There is a frequent problem understanding the statistics used here. People read "x percent of marriages end in divorce" and think it means "x percent of the people who marry at least once get divorced at least once". For most married people, the second number is useful but the first is not. The first number is skewed by the minority of once-married people who get divorced several times. I read this several years ago, too long to have a handy reference for you. Perhaps you can discuss this issue in a future column.

  32. The most common statistic (50%) is based on an even worse calculation. It comes from dividing the number of couples who get divorced each year by the number of people that get married each year.

    In medical research, statisticians use the Survival function and the Hazard function to calculate probability (in this case of staying married, or getting divorced) as a function of time (as a function of years married).

    The case of multiple marriage and divorce, is similar to a patient that goes in and out of remission. These people are taken out of the sample. In medical research, this leads to a more accurate probability function. Counter-intuitive, but true.

  33. I'm not sure you're correct in your description of how the divorce rate is calculated. Note that the article specifically states that "About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates." And even if the calculation is done as you suggest, if the divorce rate is basically stable, over time it will eventually reach an equilibrium.

  34. My husband and I married for love and I still love him. However, ours - like all marriages - has its ups and downs. Sometimes the downs are so severe and so prolonged that I want to pack my bags and run away. I don't - partly due to my own maturity, partly due to an intensely stubborn unwillingness to fail - but also because we can't afford to live apart without sacrificing everything we've worked for. Together, we do OK but apart, neither one of us makes enough money to live the way we do. I often wonder what would happen if we hit the lottery jackpot during one of the down periods.

  35. If you are neurotic and abuse money, your marriage will be over in one second..if not it may last...

  36. Great point. And how are high-income couples even defined? In cities like New York and San Francisco, where a two-bedroom apartment can easily cost $4,000/month and a beer is often $6, even a couple making $200,000/year would face a dramatic change in their living standards if they spit up.

  37. One tip for financial security: one house, one spouse.

  38. With age comes maturity. As the age at first marriage goes up, so does a more realistic appraisal of potential partners and what the institution of marriage offers. The people involved can compare the "bird in the hand" to the alternatives - if any.

  39. Marriage...yet another indicator of the widening socio-economic divide that is undermining the U.S. How many examples do we need before we address this problem?

    "The marriage trends aren’t entirely happy ones. They also happen to be a force behind rising economic and social inequality, because the decline in divorce is concentrated among people with college degrees. For the less educated, divorce rates are closer to those of the peak divorce years."

  40. Add to that "while at the same time, record numbers of children grow up in one-parent households." I guess that they are not the best group of candidates for stable marriages.

  41. Okay, this is easy to explain. Even for those with education it takes two salaries to sustain a family. No one can afford two households anymore. So everyone waits until the kids leave for college. It is economics, not "love."

  42. Men are finally realizing that they everything to lose from marriage if the wife wants a divorce (as the article says: two-thirds of divorces are initiated by the wife). Additionally, the idea of a two parent family is quickly fading.

  43. Men who consider that the half of the marital assets that the wife legally gets are "everything" to them weren't marriage material in the first place.

  44. How backwards to assume that men are the sole breadwinners (who would presumably lose "everything" in divorce).

  45. go look up some articles, there have been cases where the man made 5 digits a year, wife made 6 digits+ a year, got divorced, he was ordered to pay child support and alimony to HER. when she made 100k+ a year more than he did.

    good luck with that argument.

  46. In "olden days," girls who found themselves "in trouble" ... and the boys who got them there ... were often strong-armed into marriage by parents whose beliefs about cultural (and often religious) respectability required their grandchildren to be born to married parents.

    More effective and less "intrusive" birth control, legal abortion and a growing acceptance of outside of marriage births have combined to prevent a lot of people who were too young and immature to be good marriage partners from marrying someone who they really don't know very well. As a result, a lot of divorces have been prevented.

    Simple as that.

  47. The olden days you describe were over by the early 60's.

  48. It isn't really true, as in a lot of cases people went to altar because they wanted to have sex and the girl insisted on marriage - this is the case of my parents.

  49. Divorce surge over? Get real. While it may never reach 100% -- few things do -- now that women are no longer consider "property" and have increasingly more access to education, jobs and life choices, and the laws in most states provide for 'no fault' divorce, the rate will continue to increase, then level off to the dull statistical equivalent of a coin-flip -- 50/50. Because those are the odds that ALL the countless interacting factors that make for a long marriage will come together in the right but random sequence to make that happen. The only reason the rates seems to be declining is that the statisticians haven't waited long enough to let divorce happen.

  50. You're not reading the graph correctly.

    What the graph is showing is that after 8 years of marriage, the 2000s cohort's divorce rate is lower than the 1970s-1980s cohort were, after 8 years. And after 18 years of marriage, the 1990s cohort's divorce rate is lower than the 1970s-1980s cohorts were, after 18 years had passed. The statistical trend is clear that 1970s-1980s couples are more likely to divorce over an lengthy timespan than couples from earlier and later periods. Waiting longer won't change that fact, because divorce is something of an S curve. It levels off after a certain point since longer-married couples tend to be more committed to making things work.

    And yes, there was a time when our divorce rate hovered around 50%. But that is not the same as random "50/50" odds. Coin tosses are 50/50 for a good reason. A coin only has two sides, and both sides have equal likelihood of turning up. But there's no reason in the world why the "countless interacting factors that make for a long marriage" would naturally converge on 50%. The near-50% rate of years past is a kind of numerical coincidence in that it superficially resembles coin-toss odds, but, as Miller's analysis shows, there is no "natural" rate of divorce. It's lower in some countries (as low as 3 percent in Chile) and higher in others (Belgium takes the cake with a 70% rate). All those countries have countless interacting factors as well.

  51. I would say the divorce rate is as high as ever. I know very few "happily" married people. Most women I know are getting divorced. Expect to see a surge in these numbers over the next couple years. Many have waited for kids to go to college before divorcing.

  52. As the old saying goes...democracy is a terribly flawed, unwieldy, sausage making institution but we have not yet come up with a better system.

    You can add marriage to that...

  53. The graph compares incomparable entities. Even so, the differenes are too small to warrant any particular conclusions.

  54. Very true. Hey, but then the author is an economist, not a statistician. The former are notorious for using selective variables and rubber math to reach conclusions that attracts a newspaper, where editors are even more math-challenged than most of us. Economists are why stockbroker "expertise" has been largely replaced by high-speed computer trades that more accurately reflect the reality of other computers' trading decisions. ;-)

  55. "As a result, many [working-class non-college graduates] wait to achieve a level of stability that never comes and thus never marry, while others split up during tough economic times."

    Not enough is said in this article about the drastic changes in the economy since the mid-2000s, including the fact that the financial crisis hasn't gone away. For example, many married couples may be staying together due to economic issues involving home ownership, such as being stuck with an underwater mortgage after having bought an expensive home near the peak of the housing bubble. Also, home ownership has become unaffordable for many and renting is their only option; needing to share the rent may be keeping many couples together. Another problem is this economy's change to low-quality, low-pay jobs which offer no financial security; this would discourage many people from getting married or producing children. Times are fundamentally different in a bad way now compared to the past, and this should've been pointed out in the article - although we are supposed to believe that the economy is getting better.

  56. This is absolutely true..dont forget that iwth 70 million killed in WWII(only 450k americans) that if you were an american man who lived(very good chance) you had a 30 year period (until first oil crisis) where just being a while maie meant you were middle class and a "catch". Ironically the strongest marriages I see in my town(or at least the least divorced) are those where one or more are employed by govt or education. I know no divorced teachers (female or male), firemen, govt administrator types and as a coach and involved parent I know many in these categories. I cant say that same about any private sector job category, all have some divorced and some (esp if women is bread winner and has a stressful quota type job or off hours medical job) are usually divorced.

  57. Assuming the stats are correct, I see no details for the AGES of the married couples. I married in 1993 and my marriage was intact until my husband died 18 years later. However, ours were 2nd marriages. His first, 1968, ended in 1983. My first, 1983, ended in 1988.

    And, another compelling factor to the stats is, of those divorcing or not, how many had children? What cities did/do they (the couples) live in? What is their economic situation?

    It's fine to show us a graph, but it needs a lot more 'splainin', Lucy.

  58. The premise here, and in some of the comments, seems to be that divorce is somehow a failure. Why? Especially after the kids are gone (if we're going to assume that being raised by their biological parents is the best thing for children, no matter the state of the relationship), what is the failure in deciding that you and your partner are no longer a good fit? People grow and change at different rates. Instead of thinking of a marriage that lasts 10, 20, 30 years and then ends as a failure, I prefer to see it as the evolution of both the individuals and the relationship itself. Divorce, while often painful, may also be seen as an opportunity for the growth that may come from whatever subsequent relationships one may (or may not) engage in.

  59. It is a failure if each person has promised the rest of their life to that other person.

    If your vow is that you will stay married as long as you feel like you want to, then divorce is not a failure.

  60. To me, that's an after-the-fact rationalization akin to what I've heard from therapists, friends, and even books (Sacred Cows/Vows)

    EXCEPT that some of us spent our whole adult lives working as hard as possible and taking necessary risks just for the sake of our family. So to hear 16 years later that sorry Charlie, I need to go out and get a tattoo and date on OK Cupid so I can be happy is definitely viewed as a failure by the poor schlemiel who prepaid college, sheltered his wife and family in affluence, and is then left stuck holding the bag when the wife decides she needs to "find herself" (her words!).

    I don't need personal growth right now. I worked by tail off my whole life and have overcome many many personal challenges. The LAST thing I want to do at 45 is to have to totally start over my relationships, my finances, my life, just because my ex thinks it's easier to not invest in couples therapy, SSRIs, etc.

    As for her personal growth, god bless. Early returns are not promising. Aside from heavy online dating and a tattoo I don't see much "change".

  61. True Kathy but on the other hand divorces dont end up with everyone learning from the experience either. It takes real human fortitude to start over and not everyone has that in large quantities. I dont disagree with you but there is more to divorce than happily calling it a learning experience.

  62. Part of it may be that people are getting married later, and thus might be more mature in their decision making. I have no data to support this hypothesis, however.

  63. One wonders why most divorces end in marriage.

  64. because there is tons of financial, social, and child-owning benefit for women to be divorced. There is also almost no recourse for men to defend themselves in divorce or family courts.

    for divorce: women, almost no downside except emotional which they can patch with a new beau. Men, pretty much zero upside, you'll lose your kids, half of assets regardless of your ex-wife's personal financial contribution, and be a far less desirable mate because you already have a family and have to pay childsupport/alimony and therefore can't provide for a new woman as well.

    thats why.

  65. The key to a happy marriage is to not have kids. Nothing removes the honeymoon ardor and heady expectations that come with finding that one true love than that most devastating of acts that ruin marriages:kids.

    And yes, I get it, your kids are the greatest thing in your life. What else would you be expected to say.

  66. And yes, I get it, your lack of kids is the greatest thing in your life. What else would you be expected to say?

  67. The key to a SUCCESSFUL marriage is building a family and being able to enjoy LIFE not insist it's all happiness and roses every day - kids get sick, as do parents, people have financial obstacles, the dog runs out into traffic, etc. That's life and a marriage that pretends it's its own raison d'etre is not reality, it's a symptom of narcissism,

  68. Are you suggesting a direct link between having kids and getting divorced? This article did not address that at all.

    If I were to speculate - as you are - I would assume couples in the 50s, which had more stable marriages, had more kids. The data in this article seems to point to an opposite conclusion to your claim.

  69. I'm really glad I've chosen to be single. Cultural and religious baggage plus PC-ness have made marriage a sketchy option.

  70. Hey Laramie, the women (and men, in some states) thank you.

  71. All of the 2000s marriages will be breaking up once the digit grace-period is over with their superstition.

  72. “Two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women,” said William Doherty, a marriage therapist and professor of family social science at University of Minnesota, “so when you’re talking about changes in divorce rates, in many ways you’re talking about changes in women’s expectations.”

    I'm surprised by this assumption that it's changes in women's expectations. My initial thought was that there has been more change on the part of men, who are able to share more the house/childcare responsibilities and work around the woman's career, perhaps resulting in woman more fully satisfied by her relationship's dynamics and shared responsibilities.

  73. I wouldn't put too much stock in the fact that women are the initiators of the divorce. In my opinion it's more that when things are going bad and a divorce is eminent, women are more inclined to want to get out of limbo and get the process moving forward. That doesn't change the fact that women are the initiators, it just speaks to the fact that more often than not it's most likely a fairly mutual decision that the marriage is no longer working.

  74. One thing not explained is how this correlates to a decline in the percentage of people getting married. If marriage is not looked at as a default, then you have more committed couples who actually take the plunge.
    The thing that has struck me about couples that stay together is that they get married mostly out of a desire to be married, as opposed to being madly in love. The arranged marriage system in India is based on that principle, and so preselects the individuals who are likely to stay married, barring the instances of coercion due to parental pressure.

  75. I was surprised that the much higher divorce rate in the "red" states vs. the "blue" states wasn't mentioned. Conservative Protestant Christians in those states are much more likely to divorce than progressives. Perhaps the progressives lived together first and just broke up as the article suggests. Or perhaps the rigidity of their world view led the CPC's to more rapid disillusionment and divorce? The red states have a much higher out-of-wedlock birthrate, ala Sarah Palin's daughter, than do the blue states. Basically, the blue states live the red states' ideology much more effectively than the red states do.

  76. You are missing a very important point. In the "red" states, marriage rates are much higher, while in progressive states (and especially progressive cities - think NYC and SF), rates are much lower.

    In red states there is social pressure to get married (and married younger, when you're not ready), which means more bad marriages. In blue states/cities, if you can't find the one you want, you never get married. And those who do tend to get married in their 30's, when they know who they are and what they want. And there are tons of people in NYC and SF who never get married.

    So one would expect that divorce rates would be higher in red states.

  77. The "social pressure" to marry and marry young is a result of the rigid world view imposed on red state couples. The lack of that social pressure in blue states comes from a more flexible and I'd say, more realistic, view of human nature. I'd say that's the larger "point." The rest is tautology.

  78. "more likely to divorce than progressives"

    Could you cite a reference that tracks divorce rates by political belief? Do progressives only marry progressives? Mary Matilin and James Carville are still married aren't they?

  79. Simple math tells me that the divorce rate isn't really down - it's just that fewer people are getting married and so there's fewer people to divorce!

  80. Even simpler math tells me that the divorce rate is calculated as a percentage of all marriages, not all people in general!

  81. Marriage rate is the lurking variable, I suspect. Fewer marriages that take place end in divorce, at least partly because people who are at high risk of divorce are not getting married or delaying marriage. So the lower rate of divorce is probably most closely associated with the higher age at first marriage -- which ends up lowering the rate of both marriage and divorce. These are both alluded to, as well as the fact that there is a higher rate of divorce among those whose choices run counter to the general trend.

  82. Josh is right, the divorce rate is down, but Sharon's point is the article leaves out a major reason why: perhaps the "myth of the divorce rate" keeps people from entering I'll advised marriages! It seems entirely possible that the divorce rate would sky rocket if broad swaths of society no longer thought marriage was a risky (just about every friend I had in high school thought getting married was a dumb idea ... Why? Divorce)

    Instead the author implies everything is rosy without considering how the myth may be serving to improve that number.

  83. Now that divorce is no longer fashionable I may give it a whirl. Alas, my wife agrees.

  84. Soul mate perhaps, but most middle class men and women are careful not to take on a mate that will be an economic burden.

  85. I was married for 25 years and have been divorced for 13. My life now is far superior to when I was married. I have more romance,wealth,fun,friends,interesting activities,travel,etc.etc. I even enjoy my law practice far more,and I believe that I'm healthier. My conclusion is that marriage is a drag on the human condition,and divorce is liberating.

  86. Married men live longer than unmarried men, so it cannot be that much of a drag on the human condition. By the way, how has your wife fared since the divorce? Children?

  87. You might not be marriage material. There's nothing wrong with that but it doesn't mean that marriage in general is a bad thing.

    I had the opposite experience. The man I've been married to for two decades has encouraged me to be my best self. He helped me to pursue a career I love, to try new hobbies and interests and even to travel to other countries. When we're together the world is a more fun and interesting place and romance is still a very big part of our lives.

    Here's to enjoying life whatever ones marital status.

  88. It apparently was a drag on yours anyway. I do hate it when people trained to think critically over-generalize. Maybe you and your wife just didn't like each other very much?

  89. What a sad, sad article! These are peoples lives and sorry people, marriage
    is about a hell of a lot more than just love - it has to be based on love, yes, but it's about so much more.

    I had one of the 2/3 of divorces initiated by women, and it had NOTHING do with: my ability as a breadwinner (make >$500k year, completely renovated my house in 2013, had an amazing bat mitzvah for my older daughter,), my parenting (my 2 young daughters are my 2 best friends: I took my daughter to Italy for a week for her birthday, I moved nearby to be close to them, their college is already all paid for in advance), my being a 'good person" (I never cheated, paid every bill on time, have an amazing family, am healthy, smart, tall, good looking, fun, etc), or her having a difficult life (never worked a full time job, belongs to 2 gyms, has starbucks every day, dresses up, etc).

    So why did we get divorced? I didn't want to at all, but our children encountered some health issues, I had to switch jobs when my company failed (landed great, by the way), and my spouse was PROFOUNDLY unhappy for many years - hated my parents, gave me no quarter when she was down, seemed to be angry all the time, essentially an MDD case study.

    So when I read about divorce as a "lifestyle choice" I feel sick to my stomach.

  90. The article points out that 1950s-style marriages don't fare as well in the modern world. Maybe your wife had career ambitions of her own that were swallowed by tedious housework. Maybe she felt overwhelmed and wanted you to be involved in your children's day-to-day lives rather than working long hours and jet-setting to Italy once (leaving her behind, I might add). Or maybe you married someone without intellectual or career ambitions of her own, in which case you were probably mismatched, with few common interests.

    I don't know your family, but your story contained a lot of self-promotion and no understanding of WHY your wife was unhappy. It's no secret that the biggest gripe among many wives is being saddled with housework and childcare while their husbands selfishly pursue their dreams. Did you ever ask her why she was unsatisfied? Did you try to work things out? Marriage requires hard work, and I'm not referring to 80 hour work weeks put in at the office.

  91. Marriage isn't about any of the things you discuss in your perfect marriage. It is about respect and love between spouses which you did not have for your wife. This explains much of her mental problems. It is not about your job, your home renovation, the fact you adore your daughters. It is based on the quality of relationship you have with your spouse. Why is this so hard for guys to understand? My husband says all the same stuff about me. I was tired of waking up to someone who didn't respect or value me. Men need to work on their ability for intimacy and trust.

  92. Hi Anna. I did almost all the housework (all dishes, most of the laundry), and we had a team of cleaning women come in every week to scrub the place down (still do).

    She didn't want to go to Italy. I had already been told to move out of the house the same week I was starting a new job. I just kept my promise to my daughter.

    Of course I asked WHY she was unsatisfied. Not that it was easily understood or rational, I put a lot of work into finding out why. And as for trying to work things out, I first put the effort into three years of weekly 1 on 1 therapist sessions not covered by insurance, then I went on SSRIs, then I begged for us to go to couples together (which she quit after 3 sessions largely out of defensiveness), then I begged and pleaded for a trial separation after I moved out and was told NO.

    I am sure the dynamic you describe exists for many, just not for us. I certainly don't work 80 hour weeks, I work from home frequently, and a hardly "selfishly pursued my dreams" - almost all of my income went to house renovations, college savings, retirement savings, vacations, summer camp, therapeutic private school - I drive an economy car cause there's not much left for yours truly.

    This is why I get very sad for all the men and children whose wives and mothers wake up one morning and say "you know, I could get all the love and $$ I need and never have to work on this marriage again - and he can do NOTHING about it!"

    That's the moral hazard of no-fault, to a T.

  93. Upper middle class white women have improved their life prospects as the article appears to confirm. Seventies angry feminism has morphed into success for these well-to-do practicioners, while their poorer and darker sisters have paid their bride price, both economically and in marital satisfaction. Altogether a sort of gentrification of the marriage neighborhood.

  94. The two or three percent difference between divorce rates seven years out between those married in the 2000s and those married in the 1990s could largely be accounted for by those who opted not to marry in the first place. The larger problem though is the increasing number of children born to unmarried couples, particularly among African Americans. Children born out of wedlock = disappearance of the father = relative poverty of the mother and children = higher school dropout rates = drugs, gangs, violence = arrests and incarceration = unemployability. And this cycle goes on for generations. ' A disaster! The best arrangement: education, employment, loving long term committed marriage between a man and a woman (not two mommies: daughters and sons both need a mature, loving, strong male model), children, stable home environment, education, economic and social success. The problems in Ferguson, just as an example, can all be traced to a lot of people taking the wrong path. We should not feel sanguine if the divorce rate appears to be tapering off. We have an evolving social crisis related to the rising rate of unwed births and all their attendant social ills. The social reinforcement of long term committed marriages is part of the solution.

  95. Single parent households, whether through the flight of the father or as a result of divorce, are not "particular" to African Americans. Go to many poor white areas and you will find the same circumstances. Also two mommies can successfully raise a male child. Often the strong male model young men have in their lives is not their biological father, and is often an uncle, friend of the family, or member of the community who steps in to provide a positive influence. Some boys become great men in spite of the example their biological fathers provided. Loving homes are loving homes no matter the sex of the parents or their marital status.

  96. "The social reinforcement of long-term committed marriages is part of the solution."
    Or our "Pro-Family" society might actually fund family friendly services (normal in European countries, Australia and New Zealand) such as accessible & affordable child-care, paid family leave after birth or adoption, living wages for full-time work, universal health care, affordable housing for families, equal access to quality education at all levels.
    And "two mommies" or two daddies are constitutionally provided equal access to state/national benefits of marriage in most states (soon to be the settled law nationally)

  97. Touche!

    The phrase "....loving long term committed marriage between a man and a woman" just smacks of conservative 'family values', and means nothing in terms of producing happy, well-adjusted children. I mean, how many of us here came from such families, with a mother and father who were married, and we came out totally messed up? lol

    Just as plenty of people had rotten (married mother and father) parents, so too do plenty of people come from wonderful single-parent or gay parent households.

    I do agree with John somewhat, however, on the problem of single-mother households. But it's not so much that the single mother had children, but under what CIRCUMSTANCES she had these children. If a well-off woman makes an actual plan to bear and raise a child on her own, there's no reason that can't go well. However, far too many young girls/women are getting pregnant 'by accident', they don't have a stable job or savings, and they often have a loser guy in their life with whom they love to engage in 'drama'. That's a recipe for failure, for them AND any children they may have.

  98. I'm not saying divorce is something to be hoped for, but it's obvious that changing social attitudes towards divorce have made a great many people's live better--especially women who formerly had few options in an unhappy or abusive relationship.

    That said, while it's great that greater gender equality in the workplace and education (though still not perfect!) has allowed many women to lead happier, more independent lives than during much of the 20th century, something has to be done about antiquated (and discriminatory) attitudes towards men in divorce and custody settlements. The presumption that custody goes to mothers is still alive and well, as is the tendency to assume that wives are entitled to spousal support while husbands in identical financial situations are not. It was once the case perhaps that many women sacrificed their own careers to support their husbands' and/or to raise children, but it is increasingly common to see husbands doing the same thing for their spouses these days. There is no research that supports the notion that mothers are intrinsically better parents than fathers (but a whole lot of discredited 1950s social psychology that does).

    I'm just saying that the basis for many divorce settlements is still rooted in the old system of thinking, and are no more justifiable than the belief that women should stay at home while their husbands have careers. Let's try to treat everyone equally under the law.

  99. While I can't argue with the article's central premise, isn't it a bit misleading to groups 2000s marriages in with the rest of the data (or even 1990s marriages, for that matter?) Being successfully married for 5 or 10 or 15 years isn't the same as being married for 30 or 40 years; the odds that a married couple of 40 years will divorce are, I'd imagine, much lower than the odds a married couple of 5 years divorces.

  100. Look at the shapes of the curves. The one for the 2000s would need to swerve upwards uncharacteristically to "catch up" to earlier cohorts.

  101. The chart accounts for this - it offers the divorce rate for the number of years out from marriage for all groups. If you look at 8 years married, for example, people married in the 2000s have a 15% divorce rate, but the divorce rates of people married for 8 years who married in earlier decades are around 17-18%. For people married in the 1960s, it's lower at 8 years after marriage, with about 13-14% divorce rate. Hope that helps.

  102. Incorrect. Look at where "Married in 2000s" is at "8" on the X axis. Right in the middle of the other decades. In other words, all else equal, 8 years into their marriages, 2000s couples are essentially no more or less likely to be divorced than couples from other decades were at that point. Not at all what the headline or the article argues.

  103. It would be interesting and helpful to show the data on the marriage rate. Is that rising, falling, or holding steady? Knowing this would be important for interpreting the divorce rate trends. For example, if fewer couples are getting married, there may be something different about those who do that promotes longer marriages.

  104. The book named in the article "Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage" discusses in detail how marriage rates are now much higher in higher-income groups, and lower in lower-income groups. There are certainly many things about high-income groups that make longer marriages more likely.

  105. Before the 70s in most states it was very hard to get a divorce; in New York the only ground was adultery. Then came no-fault, and a lot of people could get out of marriages that should have ended decades earlier. So it was basically pent-up demand that drove the increase in the divorce rate.

  106. Your comment is interesting but it does not seem to square with the graph. The increase in divorce rate was among marriages that BEGAN in the 1970s and 1980s. (Not marriages that began in the 1960s.) That is, the increase in the divorce rate, starting in the late 1970s, and through the 1980s, that the graph shows (if I read it correctly) is an increase in rate at given stages in the marriage (elapsed years in the marriage); this rate does not show any steep increase among couples who had been married for decades (i.e. more than 15 or 20 years), including couples who got married in the 1960s. In all cases, the divorce rate starts to taper off at around, oh, 12 to 15 years. So I can't see that your (interesting) explanation squares with the graph.

  107. or it's just too easy now people should think of their families too

  108. Okay, but where's the spike? We've got a chart showing marriages begun in the 1960's. I don't see the spike from "pent-up demand" that you claim was there. The marriages begun after it became easier to divorce have higher rates of divorce at every stage.

  109. New title for this should be how graphs can lie. Besides the high divorce rate is a good thing, no one gets a divorce because they are happy.

  110. What's the lie?

  111. Now you tell me. Just received final papers yesterday.

  112. congratulations on your freedom, i hope the vicious woman didn't take half of your money without having actually contributed any finances to the marriage like it seems to usually go.

  113. Well this is not that difficult to figure out why... #1 it is much more "acceptable" to be single and "free" (meaning people having sex with someone who is not their spouse) - so many people never get married. #2 people get married much older - so are less likely to get divorced.

  114. You'd have to prove that by showing that significantly fewer people marry. Is that true?

  115. ... not to mention more gay people are open about their sexual orientation and not marrying an opposite sex person because it's the socially acceptable thing to do.

  116. Doug - there are many many social studies showing that many more people remain single than in the past. The percentage of people living alone is at a measurable high... As is the portion of single parent households..

  117. Rather than divorce rates, how about the more germane statistic - the percentage of people who had a marriage that ended in divorce.

    I believe the percentage would be much lower than the divorce rate, because many people have multiple marriages/divorces.

  118. Its an interesting chart, but it also misses the part of the story about people who are not getting married or delaying marriage. It would be interesting to have a more complete picture of the state of marriage in the US. Divorce rates by decade. Marriage rates by age group. Data pivoted by income. Data pivoted by employment status. Data pivoted by family size (impact of # of children on marriage). Data by race and ethnicity. Data by region. Data by city/suburb/rural. Only with more findings can we understand the trend. With what is shown here, all we see is direction and not cause.

  119. I agree. The rate of marriage is at least as important as the rate of divorce. I recently attended my aunt's funeral -- with 8 children spaced over 20 years, plus grandchildren and great grandchildren -- and it struck me hard that not a single person in this extended family orbit between the age of 22 and 45 was or had ever been married. Not even those with children. You don't get divorced if you never get married.

  120. I wonder if there has been a change in the age of marriage; is it possible that people are getting married a little later, and are more mature and have a more established direction when they do? One challenge of marrying young, as is often true for non-College graduate marriages, is that the couples haven't really become adults when they marry (legally perhaps, but people do a lot of growing through their mid-20s). If there is a delay in when people marry, they might be clearer on their needs and more prepared for the give and take that make for lasting and loving relationships.

  121. While it's true that divorce rates have dropped, it doesn't necessarily follow that those who stay married are happier. Many people remain in unhappy or unhealthy marriages because of children, finances, or just plain old inertia. It is misleading to assume divorce means unhappiness and marriage means happiness.

  122. Which was also true prior to the 1960's, wasn't it?

  123. Unless you've got evidence that there are new bars to divorce that didn't exist in prior decades, it does.

  124. As the article notes, almost in passing, fewer people are getting married. I have no idea what the divorce rate is, or if it's going up, down, or nowhere, but the drop in actual marriages sure has something to do with it. Consider the rise in single-parenting. So, I agree with others who have pointed this out. Data about marriages has to be factored in. I mean, of course the divorce rate is going down (for the sake of argument). You have to be married to divorce!

  125. The drop in marriages does NOT have "something to do with it" (at least not directly). The divorce rate described in this article is not a percentage of the overall population; it is a percentage of the number of marriages. Therefore, a change in the number of marriages doesn't directly affect it, and fewer marriages does NOT mean that "of course the divorce rate is going down." If 30% percent (for example) of marriages end in divorce, then 30% of marriages end in divorce, no matter what the actual number of marriages or divorces is.

  126. Sure, it is a percentage of marriages, but if fewer people are getting married, it is logical to assume that there is a selection process at play. It is like seeing a drop in car accidents after making it very difficult to get a license. This may very well be because the drivers are more skilled, rather than cars or roads being safer.

  127. Well, the title is suspect and not quite correct... is the click-bait we hear about? OK, the issue is those marrying now and in earlier years are different and fewer from the 60s. So, a change in rates based on very different population characteristics is to be expected. The interesting info is if we can find this 2000-like cohort in the 70s, and 80s and see if they were similar then. (or similar data mining) Otherwise, its such a messy data-set, that concluding much of interest is not possible. It's the equivalent of noting that people with broken legs walk less....but of course! They broke a leg!

  128. College educated couples are widely struggling with underemployment, student loan debt, and the cost of appearing more-or-less constantly as though they suffer from neither. As widespread prosperity nudged up divorce rates in the 70's and 80's, so poverty writ large is causing that which passes now for familial cohesion and fidelity. But thanks for the positive spin. Fairy tales are always fun to read.

  129. Thanks for the best comment here.

  130. As the author of a book about divorce, "He's History You're Not; Surviving Divorce After Forty," I can attest to the fact that at one point the divorce rate of those over fifty exceeded the rate for those under it. That is probably still the case. Boomers divorce at higher rates than their children.

    Like other commenters I speculate that the reason for the falling divorce rate is the falling marriage rate. We boomers got married before we had children. Young people today don't think having children is a good enough reason to get married. I rent an apartment in my basement to working class people and have had many young couples with children apply. Almost none were married. When I ask if they're planning to get married, they say "we're not ready to get married," even when they were living together and had at least one child. My former foster daughter is 33 and has a child whose dad is long gone. Neither she nor any of her friends have ever been married, or even aspire to marriage.

    It's the unmarried couples with children who split up, at unprecedented rates, negatively affecting the mental, physical and economic health of a whole generation of children.

    The good news about marriage is way outweighed by the bad.

  131. The other enormous myth is that people in second marriages get divorced at a 60% rate. There is no modern empirical evidence for this shibboleth, the citations for the rate are circular and self-referential, and it needs to be relegated to where it belongs: urban myth.

    Here is an example of it being cited. Check the "sources." This Huffington Post report actually refers to another source as support, when that source debunks the myth!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/06/second-third-marriages-divorce-...

  132. This graph doesn't seem very conclusive, since those who married in the 90s (how many were in the late 90s?) and 00s (how many were in the late 00s)? have only been married 15 years or less. As the graph shows, for those who married in the 70s and 80s, their divorce rates went up as the length of the marriage did. So you should come back to us in another 20 years, and then show us the divorce rates for those who married in the 90s and 00s...

  133. The graph is a little hard to interpret. My sense is that the numbers are cumulative, i.e. anyone married for one year and then divorced at any point in the 2000's would be counted at the beginning of that line. Another way to think about it would be that there were a certain total number of marriages between 2000 and 2007, only a subset of those marriages - the ones in 2000 - have the opportunity to have their 8th anniversary, but the percentage is based on the total number of divorces. So, anyone divorced before their 8th anniversary counts for every year in the future in which they are no longer married. That's how you end up with an increasing line. Someone married in 2006 and divorced in 2007 would be counted as 1 year - the same as someone married in 2001 and divorced in 2002.

    The main point should be that, while the line is going up, the line is not as high right now as the lines from the 1970's and 1980's. And, because the horizontal axis is lengths of time (and not specific years), the earlier numbers aren't going to spike or shift upward. For example, for people married in the 2000's (2000-2009), 2013 was the last year someone could have a 4th anniversary. So, the point for 4 (for the 2000's line) on the horizontal axis will be fixed once they have more recent data. But, given that they have data for 4th anniversaries for 5 of the 10 years, it would need to be a spike during the last 5 to shift that line up. Certainly, the 90's data is complete, though.

  134. The 2000s cohort would have to do a lot of extra divorcing to catch up, as the curves tend to level off.

  135. A more interesting piece would be on the higher rates of women initiating divorce vs. men--the rationale behind it, changes over the years, changing expectations, etc.

    I once heard a foreign (French accent, but may have been French Lebanese or French something else, I forget) woman speaking on NPR about the expectations of women in the U.S. She stated that only in the U.S. do women expect their partner to be their lover, their children's teacher and nanny, their psychiatrist, their confidant, their best friend, and a substantial contribution of their financial means. I understand that many men have similarly high expectations, but a lot of the marriages I see fail in the U.S. are due to women who are taught? believe? expect? everything and aren't willing to accept that it simply isn't possible.

  136. "Two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women" and also perhaps ended relationships. Men are not getting the message, but what is the message? Perhaps The Upshot can enlighten us.

  137. I think what's going on there is that men tend to be more independent, so it's easy for us to believe that everything is going along fine. Women are often looking for support that's not natural for us to give, so when they're not getting that, they believe that the relationship is broken. First they try to get the support they need, but often the way they ask for it isn't effective. So when they've "tried everything" and it hasn't worked, they pull the rip cord.

    Guys could cut the divorce rate by listening a little better. Small changes turn into huge improvements in a spouse's view of you and the relationship.

    When you make those changes, you find out what a woman is truly capable of and it's quite amazing.

  138. Men aren't filing the paperwork.

  139. Michael - I enjoyed your insights and as a woman, I think you make some excellent points.

    My husband has always encouraged me to be independent and he's also been supportive of my development of hobbies, relationships etc. that are mine alone. This has worked out really well for both of us because I don't look to him to provide all of my support and companionship. No one person is capable of being everything to someone and it's not fair to expect them to.

  140. High income marries high income. Combined for higher income. Welcome to the one percent.

  141. Eventually that drum will wear out if you beat it long enough.

  142. Respect...
    The key word for a workable lasting marriage. Both husband and wife must respect each other on a basic human level first. Then respect for one another continues to grow from initially that of a friend, to confidant, to lover, to parent then ultimately to that of the partner we choose to spend our brief life with.
    Whether from the get go, or over time, a lack of respect for your spouse at any level inevitably leads to conflict and potentially divorce.

    I love and respect the woman that is my wife! Strong, smart, social, secure.

    ...PS..she's smokin' hot too!

  143. Demographics play a big part. With the immigration surge from less affluent countries, the overall rate is down. As the next generation will show, the rates will be back up again.

  144. Wow. If only marriage and divorce could be plotted on a love/economic graph. Where would infidelity fall?

  145. Oh dear, my friends at Upshot, you have boldly attacked a broad personal issue fraught with complexities by giving us one confusing graph, a few generalizations, 3 short quotations and unexplained snippets of data. Focus, my friends, focus. Examine the rate of divorce over time including how no-fault divorce law implementation affected the rate. Examine the rate of divorce by educational level achieved or socioeconomic category. Examine the rate of divorce by marriages with children or without. Examine the rate of divorce by number of marriage (How many multiple marriages do fail?). Do one those NYT divorce rate by state interactive thingies. (Be care what is said about Minnesota! No grapes, please.) Examine rate of divorce by months of the year or citizenship status or number of bankruptcies or by presidencies or number of Americans who belong to which religion. In other words, cut your examination to suit the space you are given (not enough, by the way) in the NYT. Thank you.

  146. "Examine the rate of divorce by educational level achieved or socioeconomic category."

    I like your points but they kinda did the above in the article -- just not in the chart.

  147. Thank you. I hoped to encourage (with some humor) the Upshot to stick with just one idea per article and provide more depth since they have been given such limited space--my frequent complaint with many of their topics. I agree they have started a discussion about this aspect of the rate of divorce, but it deserves a more in-depth treatment-- like each of the factors they mention so briefly. In discussions with my circle of friends/business associates and from the perspective of my 45+ year marriage, we all remember our post college and early business/career building days of relative poverty as some of the happiest of our married years perhaps eclipsed only by our current (downsized and simpler) retired lives. And yet there are always the divorces which shock us and don't match the common wisdom. I hope the Upshot returns to examine divorce rates--after the holidays, of course. Now there is an idea for them: Is January the month with the most divorces?

  148. After looking at the graph, I'm unimpressed. All curves basically parallel each other, regardless of decade, even 8 years into the 2000's. Indeed, for the 18 mark on the X-axis, the vertical Y-axis mid-point (+/- 2.5%) is rather small, error bars you'd see in nationwide exit poll surveys, implying one rather than four lines. While I don't doubt there are different graphs, based socio-economic differences, it would be nice to see those graphs too.

  149. The size of the error bars depends upon the population. Polls are usually done with only a few thousand people. However, this study could have been done (not certain it was) using the full set of marriage and divorce statistics (millions of records). Therefore the error bars can be much smaller and the lines can be very accurate.

  150. Agree. And it is true that a small % x a large number of marriages yields a large number. But still, the study doesn't seem to imply a large % drop, for example 15% from 30% (a 50% drop). At 18 years out, we're talking about 32% from 37%, more or less. That 13% drop (5%/37%) is not bad, but its not huge either. So the 13% may be a healthy drop, given the 40 year time frame the authors analyzed.

  151. Weddings are just like the Titanic's maiden voyage, everyone is dressed up and optimistic.

  152. "Some of the decline in divorce clearly stems from the fact that fewer people are getting married"

    "Some"? More like "Much of the reason" from what I see around me for a few decades now.

    It is a fun speculative article but the truth is simply that fewer folks need or want to marry in the USA these days.

  153. I agree with this article about the various reasons divorce rates are down. Another reason is that not only are people getting married later for love- many are choosing not to marry at all. According to recent demographics, single people now outnumber married people in this country. Because it is much more acceptable to live your life as a single person than it ever was before, people do not feel pressured to get married at all- thus preventing the syndrome of getting married to the person you happen to be dating at the time when you feel that marriage is expected of you. This alone prevents many bad marriages. Feminism has indeed contributed to the stability of marriage in this country as noted in this article- since it allows people to marry for love- not just financial security- if they marry at all.
    It looks like the progressives were right yet again... take that Phyllis Shaffly!

  154. The myth was started in the 1970's that women really didn't NEED men to thrive. Remember Steinem's "Fish without a Bicycle"?

    Turns out to be a terrible condition both for the men AND the women in the USA. Children without fathers are far more likely to engage in drug use, to commit crimes and to have children out of wedlock themselves. Who knew? Fathers (and husbands) actually have incredible value.

    Thanks, femnists. For ruining so many lives.

  155. My mother (b. 1926) was the furthest sensibility imaginable from a feminist in the 1960s when her doctor husband uttery mangled her life and the attendant six kids in a divorce process. He wanted to trade up, and the kids were a drain; the divorce would have happened regardless of the social context.

    She couldn't get a credit card in her name or take out a mortgage without my grandparents co-signing because raising six kids over some twenty years left her with a nonexistent credit rating. A divorced mother, even one with an undergraduate degree, was a social scurge in the suburbs of the 1960s and largely bereft of financial options outside of family.

    My sisters (and their brother) learned a lot from that experience and that time. And much of it was taught by women activist who wrote, sang and otherwise proslytized for a radically new contract between men and women.
    in our culture. It wasn't all true, although much of it was, and it wasn't all pleasant, particularly to the reigning status quo. But it was all necessary.

    And some forty years later, my sisters have all, in their ways, found a different and a better relationship with the men in their lives. And that came about because (some) of the men changed as well.

  156. Your assertion makes no sense.

    BTW, women don't like men with chips on their shoulders and bitter attitudes towards women.

  157. Wow, California Man! I am grateful for feminists because I can now vote, open up a checking account and get a mortgage without a man co-signing with me. Thanks feminists! My daughters can go to elite universities and study serious things. Thanks again! And the term "Old Maid" is passe. Thank you feminists!

    The "fish without a bicycle" expression wasn't about kids not needing fathers....and wouldn't you rather a woman stays with you because she actually likes you?

    Signed, a Grateful Feminist

  158. Some people need to be divorced, but too many people are always looking to trade up. It's not as hard as people say it is, though maybe it's luck. Have it going on sexually, whatever that means to you. Respect each other. Don't open yourselves to temptation. Like the adulterous couple in Bridges of Madison County, anybody can be in love with anyone for four days, as long as he doesn't smell bad and (ahem) knows the right buttons to push, even with that giant ego. Do the Golden Rule thing. Don't keep a ledger of slights and try to balance it. Don't whine about your spouse: if he's that bad, leave him; if not, how would you feel to know he was saying such things about you? Focus on the small acts of love: the dishes done and the car serviced viewed rightly can be as romantic as roses. Value honesty and character. Be faithful and realize that infidelity can include much more than sex. If one of you breaks your promise and is sorry, forgive if you can, but mean it. And if you seek forgiveness, really being sorry means knowing that for awhile at least, you have to earn back trust, because you have broken it. And for goodness sake, be nice to each other. Home should not be the place you let your worst qualities show. As Judith Viorst once said, "Marriage is that state where/if you fall out of love/you maybe have time to fall back in again." But if you can't, please, walk away. Nobody should be settled for. If you can't love your spouse, let him go so someone else can.

  159. Boy it looks to me like each decade is on the exact same slope.

  160. Not exactly. The divorce rate at year 8 for the 2000's cohort is under 15%, whereas the same year rate for the 1970's and 1980's cohort was already over 20%. That's a significant decline that follows with a lesser decline for the 90's cohort.

  161. There’s a lot of speculation in the article about why the divorce rate is going down but almost none about why the myth lives on. Sad to say, I think it’s because there is no “interest group” motivated to bring us good news. On the right, outlets like Fox News want to keep up their narrative of permissiveness driving the country into the ground. But the left has its uses for fear-mongering as well. In online discussions of stay-at-home parenting, I repeatedly read warnings based on the assertion that divorce—and subsequent destitution for the at-home parent—are practically inevitable. The people who argue this way aren’t eager to acknowledge that the rate of divorce, particularly among the college-educated who are most likely to have one spouse bringing in an income high enough to live on, is lower than it has been in a long time.

    A lot of the commenters here likewise take a pretty jaundiced view of marriage. Personally, I think more stable marriages are something to celebrate. If we could dislodge from the conventional wisdom the 50% myth and the sense of futility it engenders, they might become more stable still.

  162. Marriage changed when "women entered the work force"? You meant to say when 'middle class women entered the work force'. Women have always been in the work force.

  163. Yes, a good catch. An important catch.

  164. Marriage changes when women have access to birth control and have the ability to be financially independent.

    Many women never wanted children and never wanted to marry, but did both out of fear of poverty.

    That so many women still have children with no way to support them is bizarre, as if the human fear of hunger, cold, and destitution, no longer occurs to them.

  165. And staying at home running a household is work!

  166. Marriage is great. I believe it creates Stable lives for the most part. Straight or Gay, I'm in favor of Marriage.

  167. Doesn't the divorce rate usually decline in an economic downturn? It costs less to live in one household, however unhappy you are. Maybe people aren't divorcing in the past 8 years or so because they can't afford to. Maybe they're sticking it out until both people have better paying jobs? Divorce attorneys aren't cheap, either.

  168. Proof that Bush's "No Child Left Behind" increased ignorance.

  169. Mookie - It's those supposedly family values Republicans who are hurting families. Try raising a family with low wages and no health care.

  170. @DR: my grandparents lived through the Great Depression -- no money, few jobs, low pay, and no safety net such as we have today.

    They stayed married for 57 years.

    Your theory is bunk.

  171. "But here is the thing: It is no longer true that the divorce rate is rising, or that half of all marriages end in divorce. " Here's the thing...it was NEVER true that half of marriages ended in divorce. That little nugget that lots of people used for various reasons to beat their particular drum were based on flawed and lazy "research" by I believe a Tulane professor who counted the number of marriages and divorces in parishes around New Orleans. But did not take into account any preexisting marriages, those married elsewhere, those whose spouses died and a whole slew of variables. So many people seemed to love that "statistic"--so called religious types who wanted to prove society was godless, the right to prove liberals and feminists had ruined marriage, and it made good silly copy for various nightly newscasts. It also allowed a lot of people to walk away from marriages that might have been saved had they not used this as a partial excuse. It's very depressing to see this same "fact" used in a piece about how the rates have changed; you can't start from a premise that's incorrect.

  172. I agree but even the data presented here is dodgy. The author reports that 35% of those married in the 1970s and 80s didn't make 15 years of marriage and compares it to a divorce rate of 30% for those married in the 1990s. I don't think these figures are significantly different given that they basically mush 20 and 10 year cohorts together. The next group presented are those married in the 2000s who have a divorce rate of 11-17% depending on their level of education. But that figure only applies to 7 years of marriage yet the rate is approximately half of the previous figures. It seems logical that the longer people are married the more likely it is that they will get divorced (up to a certain point I would guess) so who's to say that all of these groups won't end up at about the same divorce rate. If you were comparing breakdown rates between cars, would you compare cars that are 5 years old against cars that are 15 years old? Of course not. Granted, humans aren't as mechanistic as cars are but you still have to make valid comparisons unlike those presented in this article.

  173. Eve,

    I agree with everything you say, but I have to add (see my earlier comment) that it's not only those of an anti-feminist bent who have found the erroneous statistic useful. I frequently see it cited as well in arguments about why both spouses must work always, no one dare risk taking time off from career to raise children, because half of all marriages . . . yada yada.

    The myth lives on because there don't seem to be any ideologues on right OR left who would benefit by correcting it.

  174. Marriage is now back to where it was historically, an economic decision among elites.

  175. So it's more correct to say that about one-third of marriages end in divorce, rather than one-half.

  176. Or another way of putting it, Emily, is the rate at which marriages end in death has increased from 50% to 67%.

  177. Married in 1991. So far, so good.

  178. You can't really understand divorce rates without looking at marriage rates. What percentages are getting married? Who are those people? It may just be that those most likely to divorce are no longer marrying in the first place. The divorce rate alone is not a great measure of the health of the institution of marriage.

  179. Exactly!

  180. Your article seems to imply that the less educated have more traditional views of bread earners, thus higher divorce rates. Why don't we try leveling the economic field and then look at divorce rates in the lower socioeconomic classes? We all know that unremitting financial stress is hard on marriages. I think that your implication simply reinforced old sterotypes for blaming the poor and uneducated for their problems.

  181. If (as seems likely) the data about which gender initiates divorces is based on who *files* for divorce, then the experts relying on that data need to remember that filing says literally nothing reliable about who ended the marriage. My marriage ended when my then-husband told me it was over. My filing the paperwork was simply one of many efforts to cope in the wake of the devastation. I hate being part of the statistic that women end marriages more than men, simply because I filed the paperwork.

  182. Very same thing here. He announced he was leaving, but that is was up to me to file. He couldn't ever be bothered to pick up his socks, so of course someone else had to do the "housework" of actually getting the divorce done. An utterly irresponsible person, that one.

  183. The most fascinating part of this puzzle is the surge in divorce isn't during young adulthood or mid life, it's after age 50.

    Since 1990, the divorce rate for Americans over the age of 50 has doubled, and more than doubled for those over the age of 65. At a time when divorce rates for other age groups has stabilized or dropped, fully one out of every four people experiencing divorce in the United States is 50 or older, and nearly one in 10 is 65 or older, according to a new report by Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, sociologists at Bowling Green State University.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2014/10/08/till-de...

    I hate to rain on the parade. The divorce rate at certain age levels is declining, great, but if you make it past all of the usual obstacles you will now enter the literal Twilight Zone.

  184. Story would be more enlightening if decadal rates of single parent families were added as unmarried. That fewer couples who recently agreed to marry remain so is a rather incomplete story without accounting for the [apparently] growing number of parents who've never married.

  185. Certainly a major factor in the decline of divorce is that marriage among the poor is much less common.

    I have read the statistic that half of all births in this country occur out of wedlock. Can someone correct that statistic?

    In any case, a very large number of the poorest couples, more of them white than of another racial group, are not getting married. Those marriages of poor people, in other decades, often were the least stable, because of the financial strains they face.

    In my opinion, the conclusion that the rate of divorce is declining is misleading, if one does not factor in the changing economic circumstances of the married couples, now that the poorest largely do not marry.

  186. So, basically, the divorce rate is declining.... because the marriage rate is declining!

  187. I'm surprised the article didn't try to deduce the number of people getting married in the 2000's who were children of those divorced parents from the 1970s or 80s. Like myself and many of my friends, one of the reasons our marriages are not failing is because of the horrific memories of growing up in broken families. We would argue that our commitment to marriage is stronger than that of our parents because of our unwillingness to submit our children to what we went through, not because of changing economic patterns or conditions.

  188. Excellent point. I was alone with my older brother and father from the age of 13 onward and one of my overriding goals in life was to provide a stable home environment for any children I might have (we had one daughter). The idea of having a child and then being an absentee parent was thoroughly abhorrent. My situation with divorced parents had many side benefits, such as the development of independence, time to think about long term goals and the small joy of not having a mother hovering, worrying about safety. The downsides were significant, however. Watching your parents marriage fly into a thousand pieces, and gradually coming to discern the reasons, was one of them. We learn from negative examples as well as positive ones, perhaps more intensely.

    Doug Terry

  189. On the other hand, those who saw a stable marriage for their parents could very well have stayed married longer. My parents were married 57 years, my wife's nearly 50, each ending in the death of one of the partners. But then, my sister divorced which could blow that theory. But this is answered to me by the fact she was married at 20 and I was at 32.

    I would say people are holding off and age overcomes the shortfalls perceived in the spouse. Those looking for perfection when they are young rarely find it.

  190. While it's true that some marriages are stronger., the rise in the so-called gray divorces (occurring to those married 20 years or more) seems to indicate that once couples raise their kids to adulthood, they are ready to move on. That's what anthropologist Margaret Mead observed in the '60s and what is still going on according to my research for "The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels." If we really want to strengthen the institution of marriage, then we need to have marital models that reflect how and why we marry today, as Wolfers and Stevenson (an unmarried by committed couple, BTW) observe. For the first time in history, marriage has competition -- we can have kids, sex, financial security (especially women) and live together without tying the knot. The question anyone marrying nowadays must as is, why marry?

  191. Many of their chores in the home became automated? That is an overstatement on the part of the esteemed economists, in my opinion. Other than the not very recent introduction of machines for dishwashing and laundry, as well as the luxury of families owning more than one vehicle, making grocery shopping times more flexible, this does not apply, and, as any parent can attest, hands-on expectations of parents have never been higher.

    That those who would only later become divorced are not marrying is good, but the consequence of others, including same-sex partners, not making that commitment is not, either for them or for our society as a whole. Two households occupied by two single people cost 40% more than one household occupied by the same two people, so cost-indexed stipends to government beneficiaries will have to increase as more people live alone in middle age and later. In addition, married people tend to pay more taxes than singles, despite what the tax tables would indicate, because they tend to have more income. The dependency has, in effect, only shifted from one's chosen partner for life to others who pay more in federal taxes, often as a result of being married. My own household pays about ten times the amount of federal income tax as those of my single relatives who have approximately a quarter of our household income. For younger people, the difference between the married and the single is even greater, especially when the EITC and other programs are considered.

  192. The article conflates numbers and dates to make a confusing argument. The headline states that divorce rates increased in the 1970's and 1980's and have since declined. But the chart actually shows that divorce rates increased for couples that were married in those decades and has since declined for couples married in later years. Those are two different concepts.

  193. For graphs like this, one of the problems that I (and I think others) had was in considering the completeness of the data points. We inherently understand that someone married in the 2000's will not have had the opportunity for as many anniversaries as someone from the 1970's or 1980's. This, in turn, translates into suspicion of the lines themselves because we, rightly, think that they could shift up or down in the future.

    It would be nice to do some sort of color-coding to the lines themselves where the color would represent the completeness of the data. Maybe shades of red are very incomplete going to shades of blue for more complete with 50% completeness being neutral. This would affect how the graph looks by indicating how immovable each year on the lines are. For example, the 1990's line would have dark blue up until the 9th anniversary - indicating complete data - and, then, it would get lighter blue until the 13th anniversary where it would switch over to red through the 18th anniversary.

  194. As you note, though, the lines are mostly based on complete data. No one married before 2007 can get divorced within 8 years of marriage and be in the '00 cohort anymore, which leaves a maximum of 30% of the sample whose future behavior could shift the 6, 7, and 8 year portion of the '00s line up. However, assuming proper sampling, this seems unlikely based on the trends that can be extrapolated from the lines. The '60s started and stayed lower than the '70s and '80s, which were pretty close for the first couple decades of marriage. There's a brief uptick in the '90s line, but nothing that suggests that divorce rates are characterized by large discontinuities. It could be the case, but the data don't suggest it right now.

    I'd concede that there is a little hidden uncertainty in the graph, but by and large, assuming proper sampling, it seems to accurately capture and represent the trends.

  195. I would agree. The sample sizes needed have certainly been met and it would be necessary to have some unforeseen surge that is not indicated in any of the other data sets in order to shift the 2000's line. When faced with arguments about how much uncertainty there is, it always seems helpful to show what could change (and, if possible, how they could change) and then focus on the likelihood of that change rather than trying to argue about both at once.

  196. If you are trying to dispel myths about marriage, it also might be helpful to dismiss the myth of the 1950s "homemaker" wife. Only upper class married women didn't work in the 1950s -- lower class and many middle class women did, especially as soon as their kids were in school. Of course, these jobs weren't treated as "careers," just as something "extra" to help the family finances, but the reality was that something "extra" was often what was making ends meet.
    I recall once hearing about a study in around 1965, where a researcher asked a group of high school girls how many intended to work as adults. Only 10% raised their hands. Then the researcher asked how many of the girls had mothers who had a job. 90% raised their hands.
    Women have been "out there" in the work force for some time. When it comes to the lower classes, they've been "out there" forever. It's just a question of how we talk about it.

  197. This article glosses over the reduction in marriage rates due to it being an institution with almost no benefit for men financially, legally, or as a parent with the current family court and divorce laws. it also glosses over the reasons women GIVE for divorces, which is more often than not "dissatisfaction" which equates to "he wasn't ______ so i'm going to violate an oath i made before god rather than working with him to fix it, and then make him pay me money afterward regardless of his personal finances or my own."

    it also ignores the fact that feminism has in a lot of ways demonized being a housewife. my mother for example was a staunch feminist in the 70's but by the 80's had turned her back on the movement because she didn't like being told she was "being oppressed" or "was making a poor life decision" by staying at home to be a mother to me and my sister, when it was her choice and NO ONE was forcing her (she was a manager at AT&T until my dad made enough money that she could make that choice for herself, at no point did he force her, in fact he tried to convince her not to.)

    marriage these days is nothing but a financial trap for men where they know that no matter what they do their wife can up and leave them and take half of their assets regardless of her personal contribution to the finances, where well over 90% of the time they won't get custody of their kids and will become a weekend warrior (tender years doctrine). where is the benefit?

  198. Studies show that married men are healthier and happier than single men.
    Marriage must be doing something right!
    Sorry, but your resentment is showing.

  199. You sound quite bitter. Hope you find happiness.

  200. Since we are making generalizations here...
    The benefit is that the woman does more of the housework, homemaking and childcare than the man, whether or not she works outside of the home too.
    The benefit is that the woman doing all this at home enables the man to advance in his career or stay on the job, unencumbered by the "mommy track" of trying to balance work and family.
    The benefit is that the woman does all this without the man having to pay for a housekeeper, babysitter, cook etc.
    The benefit is that the woman bears the man's children and does the lion's share of caring for them.
    I say this as a single mother who had a high powered career, now retired, that entailed having to hire people to do the job of having a wife. I often felt like a "daddy" and recognize that life is a trade-off whatever you choose to do. And life is hard to manage whether you are a woman or a man. Try seeing things from the other side a bit and you will not be as bitter.

  201. And we're more careful and understanding after seeing the mistakes our parents made.

  202. Is there additional data based on income and race?

  203. “It’s just love now,” Mr. Wolfers said. “We marry to find our soul mate, rather than a good homemaker or a good earner.”

    I do not think that is a fair accounting at all. We marry to find our soul mate, but we only search among those with the proper education, background, financial status, etc.

  204. The word soul mate is overrated. It would be so boring to marry someone with exactly the same tastes and wants. Is this what we want, a doppelganger of the opposite sex?

  205. "I do not think that is a fair accounting at all. We marry to find our soul mate, but we only search among those with the proper education, background, financial status, etc."

    Excellent point, Mark! And online dating has made filtering for those attributes more efficient for the younger generations.

    For many of us, romance and love are only part of the marriage equation. We have been paying attention to the older groups and the reason for their marriage failures. So yes, financial stability and shared values for raising children are highly important.

    This is why we get married later in life and hold off on having children until we're more secure in our relationships. We also aren't afraid to stop at one child (hence our lower birth rates) if we think it will further strain our marriages.

    No previous generations have put this much thought into the decision of marriage. Many Baby Boomers appear to be clueless about the impact they've had on our expectations and aspirations when choosing life partners.

  206. Your chart is classic statistical double talk. Why do the lines for marriages from the 1990s and the 2000s not reach higher breakup levels? Give them time. Comparisons at the arbitrary 15-year point show a spread of only 3-4 percentage points between the 90s and the preceding two decades - no basis for any conclusion. And after 8 years, drawing conclusions about the 2000 group is impossible.
    Maybe there are loudmouths out there talking about half of all marriages ending in divorce, with no numerical basis; looking at this chart though, you cannot yet conclude that 40% of all marriages do not end in divorce, eventually.

  207. Divorce, as a survival statistic, has a cumulative distribution, thus comparing the spreads at the tail end, which is what you do, is not the same as comparing the spreads early on the slope; the error distribution increases on X axis.

    For your analysis, a log transform normally is the first step.

  208. This data doesn't prove the rate is either increasing or decreasing...each decade curve seems pretty super-imposable to me...

  209. Oh dear. In the 70s and 80s people still got married in their late teens and early 20s. Now, they don't. The end. Honestly... the things universities waste money on. Shame.

  210. Well someone has to say it. Didn't the right wing say that gay marriage would cause the institution of marriage to fall apart? There should be a survey done to know just how many marriages (especially tea party and rightward) have fallen apart because gay people are now getting married.

  211. The right wingers never explained that very well. Did they really think that someone would look at their neighbors and say "well Bob and Dave are happily married now so I'm going to leave the person I love and get divorced."

  212. That's not how it works, anymore than "no fault" divorce law FORCED anybody to get a divorce.

    It starts with a disrespect for and diminishment of what marriage IS -- making it look like a sick joke. Pretty soon, people don't value or respect marriage, because it is filmy and transient, and you get lies like "half of all marriages end in divorce".

    From gays and lesbians, you got "traditional marriages end in divorce half the time, so clearly marriage is meaningless!" I would ask them "if it means nothing, why do YOU want it so badly? do you think gay people will never divorce?"

    @DR: in fact, when you talk about young people -- children today -- when they grow up, seeing marriage demeaned by both "no fault" divorces and gay marriages, many of them will conclude "what do I want with such a pathetic institution anyways?" They often have NO personal role model of what a good marriage, and now they won't even have the model of a normal, traditional marriage either.

  213. I believe gays and lesbians want the same options as everybody else.

  214. Could someone please tell Professor Doherty that the party who legally files for divorce may not be the one driving it? That women may file for protection, to get child support after a man has left? That men may not want to pay support? He is so biased against women he should be teaching.

  215. People today have no problem with living together and having children but not being committed to marriage. I see it all around today, so naturally the divorce rate will be lower.

  216. People figured out that divorce, in very many cases, can be nothing so significant as wealth transfer to the lawyer class. Fights are deliberately drawn out in unending "billable-by-the-quarter-hour" escapades that many people never wanted to get into. They were taken there.

  217. No one made you fight over evey detail. No one robbed you of your intellect. A lawyer is but a tool, and the easy target to blame when you should be blaming each other.

  218. Who said anything about me? I've seen it happen to others, and happen to be in a position to know.

  219. Weird article. First of all the rate is tracking as high rate of the 60's and 70's out for the first 4 years. Also the differences at 8 years are small (15% vs 18%)

    Finally, it is 2014 - why does the data set for the 2000's only go for 8 years and not at least 13 years?

  220. Because the Obama Economy has caused an inconvenient contra-narrative uptick in divorces through 2014?

  221. It's also possible that the high divorce rate in the 70's and 80's was a function of the super permissive sexual atmosphere at that time. Combined with the rise of Feminism, and prior to the AIDS threat, perhaps many people decided that they wanted multiple sexual partners, and so, sexual monogamy, along with marriage, went out the window.

  222. Great point! Older readers (those 50 and up) did not come of age with the reality of an STD that could literally kill you. Monogamy is attractive to more members of my generation for that reason alone.

  223. What's marriage? Is it a religious ceremony, is it a financial contract? Maybe we are reinventing this traditional concept without even knowing. Me, I am happily cohabitating. The only bad part is not having a word or label to name her with. She is not my wife or fiancée, she is my one true love and best friend.

  224. Try "partner."

  225. I like the word "beloved."

  226. Looking at your graph, the 2000s line has a slope about equal to the other four lines. One could conclude therefore that after 20 years the divorce rate will be about the same: 35 to 40%.
    You are drawing these conclusions far too early about divorce rates falling.

  227. I married my first wife in the early 70's when we were in our early/mid 20's. It was a marriage that seemed right for a reason that has escaped me all these years later. We ultimately split after 29 years and then divorced. However, many times during that period I was driven to serious thoughts about divorcing but decided the financial issues were far more dour than staying together. It wasn't until I was more financially secure (and had actually met a woman who was in a similar situation) that the separation became the viable alternative. Looking back I realize that the first marriage was NOT based on love, but some 70's fantasy. Was it my age or was it THE age? Maybe a bit of both. I had even spent couch time and was told that I didn't know how to love. Since meeting, and ultimately marrying, my second wife, over 10 years ago, I have learned exactly what love is and I am in a far happier place in my life than I had ever been before.

  228. "Two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women...”

    I wonder how many of those women who initiate divorce are breadwinners in the family, discovering that the breadwinner role is not all it's cracked up to be.

  229. Maybe more like they are the bread winner and still expected to complete the majority of the domestic duties.

  230. I find the conclusion puzzling-
    "And the effects could last for decades, as the children of stable marriages grow up with both the immediate benefits and the role models for successful future relationships...
    Just because a marriage does not end in divorce, does not mean that the relationship is stable. It does not mean that the relationships are models for their children. Sadly, sometimes divorced marriages can be better models, so the children know what they want, and what not to tolerate in their future relationships.

  231. My husband divorced me to marry his girl friend. After more then 30 years raising a large family, I was unprepared to support myself. I fought the divorce. It turned out to be an excellent object lesson. All seven of our married children are in stable and long-term marriages. None of them want to go through that kind of hell themselves.

  232. This is a crappy story with a flawed interpretation and overstatement of results. The proportion of patient who get a divorce in the first four years is actually no different across decades. The differences are only apparent after year 7 or 8. The entire story is based on "if these trends continue", but in fact there is no evidence to support any change trend. Furthermore, between those married in the 1990s and 2000s, the absolute difference in divorce rates by year 8 is miniscule, only about 2%. That small enough to be explained by numerous things (economy, war, gay marriage, changes in marriage and divorce laws) -- and by no means can be used to generalized any change in American culture.

    Extremely disappointed to see such poor quality reporting from NYT.

  233. Excellent article! Thank you very much! I now have to revisit my understanding of the data. This is "quant journalism" at its best. So much better than when solely directed at sports or the political horse race.

    Brava!

  234. Faced with lifetime alimony, a form of slavery I thought prohibited by the 13 amendment, I recommend serious consideration of the potential permanent ramifications of a marriage going sour before committing.

  235. There is no such thing as "lifetime alimony" anymore -- only "rehabilitative" alimony (*to "cure" women of being homemakers).

    There are a VERY few exceptions -- one would be if your spouse is handicapped or disabled. Another would be if you had an extremely long marriage (over 40 years) and your spouse was elderly (over 65), and would be in extreme poverty or on welfare as a result of the divorce.

    Otherwise, that's fiction. Alimony is rarely awarded these days, and only about 40% of is ever COLLECTED by the spouse, and it is almost NEVER for a lifetime.

  236. Twenty-eight years and going strong. Millennial daughter about to celebrate first anniversary. I can't remember the last time I heard about someone getting divorced. However, couples I know are usually separated by death after long marriages, some exceeding 50 years.

  237. Same here. I'm in my mid 30s and all my friends are happily married, most with small children. Among my parent's friends only one is divorced.

    Divorce is extremely rare in my "world." I don't know anyone with an out of wedlock baby.

    Of course, I'm a college educated professional living in the Northeast.

  238. I know women who have been divorced for many years and remain unmarried. I know women who have had chi

  239. It's all economics from my own and my wife's experience of living in both worlds. Both she and I grew up in broken families and in poverty stricken areas. While growing up, non-traditional family arrangements were very common. Many of our high school friends had two (or more) Christmases just like we did.

    Luckily both of us managed to (thanks to public education) make it to college, find each other, and move up to the middle class. I can't imagine a day without my wife. Divorce to me is a nonstarter (I know just wait until the kids). Now my social circle is as you describe--divorce? where? Everyone I know is married, stays married, and has children. I can only attribute this night and day difference to having moved up the economic ladder, since I suppose we associate with people of our same economic class, hence the change in marriage scenery as we transitioned.

    But, even with these lived experiences neither of us can put a finger on why we did not fall to the cycle of poverty and divorce. Travelling back to, and thinking about where we came from is always a life lesson for us. It's a reminder of what could have been, and why we are grateful.

  240. This writer, among others, consistently seems to arrive at a premise and then try to twist her data to support it.

  241. This is actually basic stuff from any recent demographics course.

  242. It is just so wonderful when academics go out, work hard and discover the obvious. Well, they would say document it, but we have known for decades that the feminist movement was behind millions of divorces.

    Germane Greer observed that "an entire generation went out and got divorced" following the rise of feminism. Women were told they had made a bad bargain, that it was their responsibility to be engaged with the world, working. Those still young enough to have reasonable prospects flew the coop. The husbands they had thought so wonderful a few years earlier were cast as dead weight around their necks, the object to be overcome or tossed aside in the pursuit of a new, better self.

    As for marriages being "all about love" these days, ha! Try being a single male and telling women your job is something menial or one that will never result in high pay. End of conversation.

    The expectations of women about how they want to be regarded have changed, but most still want men who can bring home the bacon (even if they make more money or do well themselves). Economics plays an important role at all levels (I have heard of people getting divorced because one spouse overcharged the credit cards). No matter how much women see themselves as liberated, a lot of traditional standards still apply.

    People who make less money, whether "working class" or not, are often under much more strain. When difficulties arise along with other problems, then marriages do, indeed, break.

    Doug Terry

  243. True - and many females are choosing to be a mother without being a wife. I'd love to see them do a survey of females age 25 to 35... Men are often seen as unnecessary.

  244. So is one to conclude therefore that women participate in a double standard, across the board, the entire gender, both then and now? Sad you see it that way. Sad for you that is.

  245. My parents divorced in 1980 and it is still a disaster. My brother and I are in our 50s and paying enormous medical and assisted living expenses for two bankrupt octogenarians who could have worked it out but were too selfish and bitter to try. Needless to say I have a wonderful 35-year marriage that means everything to me and to my wife.

  246. Thank you, Jeff K, for your honesty.

    Divorce has many repercussions, including destroying an intact (if imperfect) family and ruining the lives of children -- with bitterness and recrimination that goes on for a lifetime (if not unto the next generation!).

    You bring up a superb point, that divorce leaves TWO elderly people, with no spouse or support system, who then need the help of adult children in their final years. This doubles expenses, while it cuts any potential inheritance in HALF.

  247. This is the wife speaking (we have not set up separate NYT aliases) . . . no inheritance will be forthcoming, as both of JK's parents each filed for bankruptcy at least once. Yes, there are problems here, but not JUST because of the divorce. One parent has remarried and has some assets and independence; he just needs some additional assistance. The other never did, lived with a gentleman in Fla where she had no rights whatsoever as a common law spouse. She's the one we are currently supporting.

    There are pros and cons to staying in a loveless marriage. My own parents were married to the bitter end, but their relationship was contentious and affected both of us kids. We likely would have been worse off financially had they divorced - so there is at least some argument for staying together for financial reasons.

    Let's not forget that marriage is also a way to share assets and keep the wolf from the door for both parties - if it's done right, anyway. A love marriage is best, but in past centuries, women needed support for themselves and their children. The modern world has made that need redundant, at least for large swaths of the first world. Those of us who can support ourselves marry (hopefully) for love, for a 'helper in life,' for a best friend, and for someone to walk off into the sunset with.

  248. This is a rather shoddy article, and very poor interpretation of results.
    Let's see a t-test or some other statistically valid test of variance to prove the data are different. I guess the start of a trend is good enough..

  249. And 'reporting' to similar effect is being republished throughout major news vehicles. By the end of the week, this information will have become irrefutable truth.

  250. Divorces are becoming less common because many of the people/couples who would likely have ended up divorcing aren't getting married - they're just living together for awhile and then moving on. Good, I suppose, for the nominal success of marriage, but pretty bad for the broken homes that many of our children are growing up in.

    Also, contrary to what the article states and/or implies, neither birth control nor living together before marriage decrease the likelihood of a couple divorcing. Repeated studies on those issues have, in fact, found that both of those behaviors increase the odds of a couple getting divorced.

  251. Actually those who use birth control most consistently (affluent Americans) are also those who tend to have the lowest divorce rates. Yes, this is a mere correlation.

    There is no correlation between a lack of birth control use and the longevity of one's marriage. If you are referencing the oft cited (in conservative Catholic circles) "statistic" that couples that use Natural Family Planning have very low divorce rates, know that that is a complete fabrication with no basis in any peer reviewed literature, and is just part of the snake-oil salesmanship of NFP and Theology of the Body profiteers like the Couple to Couple League and Christopher West, and it is anecdotally contradicted by many from within that community. Please see the infamous NFP threads at Women in Theology and Caelum et Terra, along with pretty much every NFP post ever at Catholic Answers for the reality of what life without birth control looks like from within the conservative and traditional Catholic sub culture. As someone who was a part of that subculture for a while in college and thankfully saw the light and got out before marrying into it, I think the disaster of people guilted into not using birth control and the wreckage on their lives is a human tragedy.

    And living together is only correlated with divorce in as much as it is correlated with lower socio economic status. Those who move in together after engagement have the same, if not lower divorce rates, than those who don't.

  252. I must be missing something.....the curve of those previous decade lines and the curve of the current decade line are remarkably similar. So if that current trend continues, over time, the divorce rate will be remarkably similar as the previous three decades are. One or three percentage points over thirty years matters not much. Perhaps people are making more informed decisions about marriage, and perhaps living together before marriage has made a dent in the divorce rate, and perhaps there are more college educated persons entering into marriage, but I would have thought that those things would have made a bigger change in the curve than exists. I'm not gettin' it.

  253. To a fellow Wisconsinite - the graph is a little confusing at first glance, but you have to look at the change in slope from decade to decade. The slope gets steeper from the 60's to 70's and 80's, lowers in the 90s, and appears to have lowered further in the 2000's.

  254. I agree. The author seems to have taken a point about falling divorce rates among educated people and run with it, when the chart does not really reflect her tone and language. All I see is that the divorce rate was NEVER at the 50% the pundits stated, and the rate has indeed fallen...But you're still on track for 30-40% -- and its not exactly clear how the chart will play out (there are other un-explained spikes, which could happen in the new line too) I guess her real point is that its not rising any more....

  255. "... economic changes have left many of the men in these [working class] families struggling to find work. As a result, many wait to achieve a level of stability that never comes and thus, never marry, while others split up during tough economic times."

    The sheer number of economic migrants from Mexico and Central America has greatly increased the competition over less-skilled jobs. This has lowered the wages that employees have to offer to attract workers. In allowing illegal aliens to remain in our country, the president is ignoring the desires of working-class Americans and legal immigrants to earn a living that can support a family.

  256. Nice try. Good paying manufacturing jobs have been sent overseas and unions are becoming fewer. These things would have happened (thanks to Republicans and the 1%) with or without immigration.

  257. Not much of construction work can be sent overseas, but wages are down in construction as well. Workers who fear deportation aren't in a position to demand fair treatment, certainly not to participate in union activities.

    Not lining up squarely here with either Ann or DR -- it's a complicated issue. Personally I think enforcement efforts should be directed more against the employers. It is a sin to leave the doors of the workplace open and lure people to their deaths in the desert.

  258. EB - Nice job of looking at two different viewpoints. Perhaps you could have a career as a marriage counselor. Best wishes.

  259. Most are in living relationship. They marry only if it works out 4-5 years and there is another checking time for 5-7 years with kids. Plus there is chance to change the partner in this period. If lucky, they could marry at the age of 40-50. Now their chance of divorce could be very rare, that we must agree. Common sense.

  260. These marriage stats are like the BLS numbers, fully rigged, manipulated, and controlled. The institution of marriage is today run more along the lines of the FED and a closed and closing society.

    Of the number suitable Americans, what percentage of those have "gooped" out of participating in something that no longer exists? How many people have opted out and gone un-reported? Why be some statistic of some government chart anyway?

    In what use to be a private matter, when marriage was an affair of the heart supported by a real world, we now have some sick remnant of an American society that no longer exists, unless you like marriage being run like a reality TV show. Is this all the conscious coupling that is left? What is next -- "Match-making by Gwyneth?" Even Martha Stewart would pass on that.

    How can marriage actually can be matched up to real needs, when a heart's desire becomes requirements about how a good women will be guaranteed a large pool of knights in shining amour, business heroes, financial wizards, masters of the bedroom, and handsome princes, from a society that has gone from accidentally releasing a few frogs into the pond, but now demands frogs, rewards toads, nothing but frogs, and kills all princes?

    What value is marriage, when most prince's choices these days have been gooped out, when the pool of suitable women are all maudlin Gwyneth Paltrows? Ick.

  261. "Women entered the work force, many of their chores in the home became automated and they gained reproductive rights" - The authors mean that WHITE women entered the work force since Black women have been forced to work since arriving in this country. We need nuanced analyses based on race/ethnicity not trite generalizations that lack historical context.

  262. As another poster has noted, the phrase "Women entered the work force" is unfortunately. It is middle-class women who entered the work force. Lower-class women have always been in the work force. While it would be interesting to have data organized by race/ethnicity, it would be more interesting to have data organized by class.

  263. Why does everything have to be about race? Why can't Americans realize that this is one thing we can do without. We need to stop living in the past and move forward.

  264. Remember in the Silent Majority and the Moral Majority movements? The Silent Majority declared himself the Champion of the Silent Majority in 1968. It was all about law and order and morality. Then we had Jerry Falwell who began the Moral Majority in 1976. Both of those organization were absorbed by the Republicans. You have Jesus Christ Superstar debuting in 1971 and spawning numerous records and years of plays for over a decade. Churches of all denominations were bursting at the seams as all the hippys and student-wanna-be-hippys sought for self-authentication in the conservative realm of all religions. Remember Jonestown? While religious mania may be the come to solution during cultural change and economic scares when the economic boom comes again suddenly everyone forgets their commitments to god and their spouses and heed to the beckon of the convertible Porche or Corvette and the sultry song of siren bleached beach big boobed blonde.

    Women may be the ones who end the marriage but that is because they most often are closing and locking the door on the man who created havoc within its confines.

    Everyday more women are beginning to understand that religions are the great suppressors of women and their human rights. We begin to understand that we don't need religion to have faith.

  265. The rate at which couples stay married continue to go down.

    Divorce rates are lower simply because in the 90s and 00s less people are getting married in the first place. The exact people most likely to get divorced, the poor, people of color, unstable middle class individuals, are avoiding marriage all together in large numbers.

    Marriage has become a luxury, which increasingly, only the well off, the ones with less stressful lives to begin with, partake.

    This is equivalent to going to a neighborhood, pushing out the poor people, then celebrating that school drop out rates, blight and crime are going down.

    Marriage now is simply one of many familial arrangements.

  266. Remember that no fault divorce started in early 70's and created a temporary increase in divorces.

  267. Respectfully - laws do not "create" divorces

  268. @W

    The concern should not be over divorce rates but, instead, on the prevalence of single-parent families. Anyone who can hold that up as a good outcome for children is in a fantasy.

    I don't really care about cohabitating non-marrieds without children. Once children are brought into the world, their welfare trumps the happiness of the parents. Without a societal pact with children, they are mere pawns in grown-up narcissism.

    So if the divorces are temporary, great. If, however, we have created a parallel class of lower earning single parents and unmarried and fluid relationships, not so good.