NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Community News Network

March 28, 2014

Divorce is on the rise, and it's the baby boomers' fault

The wisdom about divorce in America goes something like this: the sexual revolution sparked a sharp rise in the divorce rate from 1950 until about 1980, leading to the famous formulation that half of all American marriages would end in an uncoupling, conscious or otherwise. But in the 1980s, the divorce rate began to decline. Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers summed it up thusly in 2011: "Couples marrying after the 1970s were better calibrated about how their family life would play out and were likely better matched for a life together based upon modern gender roles. As such, they were likely in a better position to have their marriages survive than were those marrying in the 1970s."

But a new paper out this month from demographers at the University of Minnesota challenges the traditional narrative. Sheela Kennedy and Stephen Ruggles have found that the divorce rate hasn't declined since 1980, it has only flattened. And when they controlled for changes in the age composition of the married population (the U.S. population was younger in 1980, and younger couples have a higher risk for divorce), they found that the age-standardized divorce rate has actually risen by an astonishing 40 percent since then.

To make a long methodology short, the United States has done an uneven and often inadequate job collecting divorce data over the decades. The Census Bureau, noting this "long-standing void in data on marriages and divorces," added a battery of marriage and divorce-related questions to the American Community Survey in 2008. This paper is part of a first wave of research capitalizing on the new data and the new methods of analysis it allows.

A key point is that the rise of divorce has not occurred evenly across all age groups. A chart, "As they age, Boomers continue to get divorced," included in the study looked at what the authors call the prevalence of marital instability, which they define as "the percentage of ever-married persons who have ever been divorced or separated." The line for 1970 is comparatively flat -- there wasn't much of a difference in the prevalence of divorce between young people and older people. But starting with the 1980 line you can see a bulge forming at the younger end of the age spectrum as the baby boomers started divorcing. Looking at the lines for 1995 and 2010, you can watch this bulge shift rightward as the boomers age: "The same people who had unprecedented divorce incidence in 1980 and 1990 when they were in their 20s and 30s are now in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. The Baby Boom generation was responsible for the extraordinary rise in marital instability after 1970. They are now middle-aged, but their pattern of high marital instability continues."

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network

Offbeat
NDN Video
Famous Internet Cats Help Big Cause With Viral Video Recapping a Blockbuster MLB Trade Deadline Chapter Two: Composing for a film in retirement Is Justin Bieber Dating a Model? Guardians of the Galaxy (Trailer) 'Sharknado 2:' Hottest Memes Surfing The Net Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian Snoop Dogg Narrating Animal Footage Is Perfect Tigers Acquire David Price - @TheBuzzeronFOX Russell Brand Slams Sean Hannity Over Gaza Conflict Segment Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Brian Williams Reports on Daughter Allison Williams' 'Peter Pan' Casting News Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2" Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans