Divorce Rates Dropped During Recession–But Don’t Worry, They’re Back Up Again

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Money problems cause stress and stress causes relationships to dissolve — sounds logical, right? But that’s not how things played out in recent years, according to recent research from University of Maryland sociologist Phillip Cohen. In fact, between 2009 and 2011 (aka, those recessionary years), there were actually 150,000 fewer divorces than would otherwise have been expected.

Nationwide, the divorce rate dropped from 2.09% in 2008 to 1.95% in 2009, but by 2011, when the economy was improving, it began to creep back up to 1.98%. Cohen cautions that the data is still too murky to be able to draw broad conclusions about what, exactly, keeps couples together. When he looked at unemployment rates state by state, he found no relevant difference in divorce rates overall. However, he did find that joblessness seemed to reduce the divorce rate among one population: The college educated.

Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins, compared these results to Depression-era divorce patterns. “During the Great Depression, divorce declined 25 percent between 1929 and 1933. Then it rose through the ’30s. By the ’40s, it was clear that the Great Depression didn’t prevent divorce but postponed it,” Cherlin told the LA Times. In other words, don’t believe those sunny stories about people figuring out what truly matters (love) in times of financial strife. Troubled marriages will still end–just a little later on, perhaps when the parties involved have enough money to pay the legal bills.



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