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Societal changes contribute to falling divorce rate

Although statistics seem to indicate that the divorce rate has remained constant over the past several decades, a closer look reveals otherwise, according to a recent CNBC report. Specifically, the number of people who have been divorced has dropped significantly in the past decade, especially among younger people, indicating that the overall divorce rate will soon be on the decline.

That information comes from the United States Census Bureau's "Number, Timing and Duration of Marriages and Divorces," which it publishes on a periodic basis. The report divides men and women into age groups, and then further divides them into categories such as "never married" and "ever married," the latter of which contains sub-categories such as "ever divorced" or "ever widowed."

In recent years, the number of people falling into the "ever divorced" category has dropped significantly. In 1996, for example, 34.1 percent of men and 37 percent of women ages 40 to 49 fell into that grouping. In 2009, only 28.5 percent of men and 31 percent of women in that age group were in the "ever divorced" category.

The divorced group only increased for people over the age of 50. This, experts say, is because that group is largely made up of baby boomers who reached adulthood in the 1970s, which is when many key societal changes began to take place that led to a divorce 'boom' in that decade. Primarily, women began working outside the home in much greater rates, and their resulting financial independence caused an increase in divorce.

But since women have continued to work in greater numbers in every decade since the 1970s, why has the divorce rate fallen in the subsequent decades? Researchers believe that is because men and women are waiting longer to marry, and taking more time to find a spouse that is a better fit for them.

Source: CNBC, "As Two-Income Family Model Matures, Divorce Rate Falls," David Milstead, May 7, 2012

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