Does the Economy Affect Divorce Rates?
Social researchers want to know whether a downward economic trend, such as the U.S. recession which began in 2008, has a corresponding effect on divorce rates. One researcher, University of Maryland sociologist Philip N. Cohen, reviewed a veritable warehouse full of information to arrive at a somewhat anti-climactic conclusion. The answer he found: Yes and no. Nationally, divorce rates fell dramatically, but individual state statistics were not as conclusive.
National divorce rates versus state divorce rates
On one hand, Cohen's research revealed national divorce rates spiked downward between 2008–2010 in conjunction with the national economic recession. This means, overall, fewer people tend to get divorced in the United States when money is tight.
As we know, however, some states suffered greater economic decline than others. Interestingly, the research showed the severity of a state's economic recession did not statistically correspond with individual state divorce rates.
Where are the divorce statistics?
One problem with an analysis of this type is that divorce statistics are not reported in any consistent manner nationally. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has not published detailed state divorce statistics in 1996. While the NCHS still collects summary statistics, five states do not participate so the information is not complete on a national level. Cohen had to pull information together from a variety of sources to derive state-specific statistics.
Why would fewer people get divorced during a recession?
Getting divorced generally drives up the cost of living for both spouses — they have to establish and maintain separate households, health may suffer, insurance rates can go up and liquidating assets on demand rarely brings fair market value. Folks who are on the fence about getting divorced may simply tough it out until a divorce is more financially feasible.
When did national divorce rates go back up?
Not surprisingly, by 2011 divorce rates had almost recovered to the expected levels nationally. Though the economy may not have shown signs of recovery by then, most economists agree the U.S. economic decline had leveled off by 2011.
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