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Why Are U.S. Divorce Rates Dropping?

In the 1970s and 1980s, 45 percent of marriages in the United States ended in divorce, but divorce rates have been steadily declining over the last 20 years. According to current research data by U.S. economists, if divorce rates continue to decline, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never end in divorce or need a divorce attorney.

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Why Are U.S. Divorce Rates Dropping

Divorce Trends and Statistics

The steady downswing of divorce rates over the last two decades shows encouragement for younger generations of married couples. Approximately 70 percent of 1990s marriages have now reached their 15th anniversary, excluding those with the death of a spouse. These figures represent a drop in divorce rates of about 25 percent from marriages that began in the 1970s and 1980s. For couples who married in the 2000s, divorce rates are even lower at 15 percent. Statistics show:

  • 1980s – 45 percent divorce rate after 25 years of marriage
  • 1970s – 40 percent divorce rate after 30 or more years of marriage
  • 1960s – 30 percent divorce rate after 30 or more years of marriage
  • 1990s – 20 percent divorce rate after 20 years of marriage
  • 2000s – 15 percent divorce rate after 10 years of marriage

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), data from U.S. census reports show that divorce rates have dropped from 4.0 percent in 2000 to 3.2 percent in 2014 for every 1,000 marriages.

One alarming divorce statistic is the divorce rate in second and third marriages. Data shows that most people, both men and women, who divorce do get married again. Even though conventional wisdom says that divorced individuals should remain single, statistics show that conventional wisdom is wrong. While percentages differ depending on the source, overall statistics show that 60 to 67 percent of second marriages fail, and 70 to 73 percent of third marriages end up in the office of a divorce attorney.

Second and third marriages often fail due to:

  • Unfinished business from a previous marriage
  • Rebound marriages
  • Financial difficulties
  • Spousal support issues
  • Child custody and visitation issues
  • Step relationships

Why are Divorce Rates Dropping?

There are many reasons for the drop in divorce rates and the need for a divorce attorney. Over the last 20 years, many factors that previously contributed to higher divorce rates have changed. Major factors include increased marriage equality, marrying later in life, and choosing to remain single.

Marriage Equality

In the 1950s, there was an old-style type of marriage where the wife stayed home to take care of the house and the kids, while the husband worked to support the family. In the 1970s and 1980s when more women started to enter the workforce, many 1950s marriages ended in divorce. Over the past 30 years, more and more women have entered the workforce, and this has created a major change in marriage dynamics. Today, more husbands and wives share marriage equality. Statistics show that marriages with financial and personal equality are less likely to end up in divorce. Dual-income couples tend to be more educated, and their economic stability helps to ensure long-term marriage success.

Marrying Later in Life

Since the 1980s, people have been waiting longer to get married. During the 1950s, the median age for first-time marriages was 20 years for women and 23 years for men. In 2009, the median age was 26 for women and 28 for men. Since then, the median age for first-time marriages has increased even more with many women and men now over 30. Why the delay? Studies show that many people are waiting until they’re settled in a stable job to get married. Many couples choose to live together and postpone the trip down the aisle until they are financially stable enough for a marriage commitment. Fifty years ago, marriage was considered the first step in adulthood, but now it’s considered the capstone.

Choosing to Remain Single

Divorce statistics show that 80 percent of divorces filed with a divorce attorney are filed by the wife. Today, many women are choosing to remain single for longer periods of time after a divorce. With better jobs and bigger paychecks, many divorced, working women are finding it easier to support themselves and their children without a husband, especially if they receive alimony or child support. Although statistics prove that most people who divorce remarry, age and financial security can impact those numbers. Both women and men who divorce later in life may choose not to remarry, especially if they are financially secure, own their own home, and are happy living a single lifestyle. Many seniors who divorce after age 55 choose to remain single and build relationships with friends rather than another spouse.

Irritated black man and woman fighting over daughter, angry mother and father having quarrel, pulling girl's hands in different directions.

He helps clients resolve issues relating to family law, including divorce, parenting time and parental responsibilities, paternity, and child support. As a skilled real estate attorney as well, Scott also provides advice and legal representation to clients who are purchasing or selling residential or commercial property in Illinois. 

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