Divorce Rates Decline

Changing Social Trends Contribute to Drop in Divorce

One of the initial consequences of the women’s liberation movement and the increased economic and social opportunities for women that evolved in the 60s and 70s was an increase in the national divorce rate, as many women who had previously felt “trapped” in a marriage decided that they could get out. As a result, divorce rates in the United States in the late 70s and early 80s hit rates of 50-55%. That trend has changed though, over the last 20 years. Currently, the national divorce rate is just over 40%.

Experts say one of the key factors in reducing the divorce rate is that people are waiting longer to get married. Authorities have long known that divorce rates were much higher among people who married at a very early age. They cite a number of factors as contributing to the decision to postpone marriage:

  • Increased academic opportunities–In the last 20 years, a college education has become a standard expectation for many people. Most decide to wait until after graduation to get married, even if they have met their future spouse. In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, nearly twice as many people who got married in 2012 had college degrees, as opposed to a high school education.
  • Focus on careers–The modern trend, especially with more educated people, is to focus on a career first, then consider marriage. In fact, in some states, including New York and New Jersey, the average age of persons marrying for the first time is close to or above 30 years of age.

Experts say that waiting to get married reduces the likelihood of divorce for a number of reasons. First, spouses tend to be financially healthier–financial problems are routinely cited as one of the principal reasons for divorce. In addition, waiting allows for greater emotional maturity and less focus on fleeting factors, such as physical attractiveness.

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Pennsylvania Bar Association
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