We have heard for decades that the divorce rate in the United States is astronomical, so why are we now taking about fewer divorces? Many people take the plunge fully aware that only about half of marriages survive. What many do not realize, however, is that the divorce rate in this country is actually on the decline. It is currently at the lowest point we have seen since the 1970s. So, what is behind the drop?
Why are We Seeing Fewer Divorces?
Sociologists speculate about a number of factors that may be impacting the waning divorce statistics in recent years. We commonly hear that fewer people are getting married these days, resulting in a corresponding decline in the number of divorces. Statistically speaking, 58% of adults in this country were married in the 1990s, while only 53% of today’s adults have taken the leap. In fact, more adults report having lived with a partner at some point than those who report having been married at some point. While it is true that more and more people are choosing to live together rather than make the union official, the fact remains that of couples who do get married, the number of divorces per 1,000 marriages is significantly lower than in previous decades.
Analysis points to some factors that may possibly be affecting this trend, such as the easy availability of birth control and legalized abortion, both of which give couples more control over their families. More importantly, it gives women the opportunity to take unplanned premarital pregnancy out of the equation when making life choices and before committing to someone they might not otherwise choose to wed. In fact, the advent of the pill has allowed more women to pursue higher education, resulting in more marriages later in life and fewer divorces.
Social scientists see some other significant changes in trends when it relates to modern matrimony. For instance, couples are typically older when they tie the knot today than they were in previous decades. In the 1950s, men typically married by age 23. Today the average age for men who marry is 27. Many older Americans are getting hitched these days, as well; those over 65 are equally likely to marry as their young-adult counterparts. In conjunction with the age factor, consider the fact that couples who choose to live together are generally younger than those who make the commitment to marry. Perhaps the effects of being older at the time of the marriage—being more financially secure, more experienced, and more mature—are central to the declining rates of divorce we see today. Continue reading →