Brides-to-be: you can breathe a little easier now. It seems that your prospects are better than we all thought. After years of bandying about the phrase half of all marriages end in divorce, it’s finally come to light that this isn’t even true anymore. Not only that, but divorce rates aren’t rising, either.
Turns out it was just those Baby Boomers all along, and now that younger generations have entered the marriage pool well…things are a lot brighter!
What’s Really Going on With Divorce Rates
It’s amazing that this is news to most of us, but divorce rates have been falling for a quarter of a century! With each passing generation, the divorce rates get lower and lower, and have been for quite some time. The U.S. Census reports that the divorce rates for most groups have been declining for almost 20 years now.
Of Course It’s Understandable If You Think Divorce is Surging
High profile celebrity divorces keep the topic front and center, so it’s no wonder we all still think half of all marriages still end in divorce. What Kim Kardashian, Mel Gibson, Tiger Woods and Tom Cruise have done to keep the myth alive will probably haunt the image of marriage for decades to come…despite the falling divorce rates!
The Media Hasn’t Yet Caught On, Either
Producers of Bravo TV’s Untying the Knot seem to think divorce looms large enough on our horizons to make an entire reality TV show out of it. Thoughtless news anchors, TV personalities and other public figures toss about the old “50%” statistic left and right- spreading the myth.
So, Were Divorce Rates Ever That High?
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the U.S. saw the peak of the divorce rates and it’s since come off those highs. By some methods of calculating the divorce rates, the peak was only 41% anyway. Whatever the case may be, it’s been creeping downwards ever since.
What’s Up With Those Baby Boomers and Divorce?
Blame it on Baby Boomers- their divorce rates are the highest in history. What’s more, as their generation moves through the decades, the divorce rates for their age group continue to be higher than other groups. Even in 2009, almost 37% of women ages 60-69 were divorced, compared to the same age group in 1996. It’s those Baby Boomers, moving through the years. They’re still getting divorced in droves, forty years later! The media calls the “gray divorce” wave. Seems the Baby Boomers just can’t seem to get it right.
They lived at a crossroads of our culture: between the previous ideal of marriage where the wife was a homemaker and the husband went to work every day. They didn’t even spend much time together, but their yin-yang existence formed a workable marriage. As women started working and roles shifted, this yin-yang formula that had worked so well in the past began to break down.
Now we have double income marriages, children come along later than before, and marriage is more apt to be about love and common interests than convenience and practicality. Men are looking for more than a homemaker and women may not even be looking for a breadwinner at all!
What are Younger Generations Doing Different (Better)?
So, were the Baby Boomers just not that good at marriage? All their energy went towards saving the world rather than their marriages? Did they somehow lack the personal insight that would have formed stronger marriage bonds, thus lessening the likelihood of divorce?
As much as subsequent generations would love to believe they’re somehow better, it’s simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
Things change- people are getting married when they’re older now- delaying marriage typically means you’re going to make a better decision. Who would you trust with picking a life-long mate: your 22-year old self or your 30-year old self? Clearly we know much more about ourselves and about life the older we get, so delaying marriage is one of the big factors in the declining divorce rate.
Why are we delaying marriage? One reason started way back in the 1970s, when way more women started going to college. Now, as they want to develop careers before they marry, the age of marriage continues to rise. According to research done at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, age has more to do with likelihood of divorce than anything. Waiting is good.
But what else makes for a strong marriage? Here’s a list of reasons why divorce rates are declining:
- The rising age of marriage contributes to better marriages
- Co-habitation helps sort out the good from the bad relationships, so we have breakups rather than divorces in many cases
- Birth control: fewer shotgun marriages, which are more likely to end in divorce
- Groups typically at high risk of divorce are marrying less, so divorcing less too
- More people marrying for love
The Economic Divide of Divorce Rates
Well it’s not all good news. It seems that while divorce rates for the college-educated are declining, the rates for those without a college degree are actually close to what peak divorce rates were in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
This represents an economic and social barrier in our culture- working class families have more traditional views of marriage: the male should be the breadwinner, not the woman. However, the changing economy has made it necessary for many working-class women to work, challenging the structure on which many of these traditional marriages are formed.
It leads to stress in the marriage and eventually for some, divorce.
Divorce Rates, a Conclusion
But back on the bright side, as the general trend continues to reflect more stable marriages in our country, that means the kids of these marriages will grow up knowing what a good marriage is all about. That can only mean that decade after decade, things will get better and maybe someday we’ll get it right at least most of the time!