Divorce Rates Do Not Grow With Unemployment Rates

On Behalf of | May 5, 2011 | Divorce

Most people assume that as unemployment rates rise, the stress on marriages with one or both spouses being out of work grows to such an excruciating point that a rise in divorces is almost inevitable. That is what researchers from Penn State expected to find when they examined the connections between unemployment and divorce.

What the researchers found, though, is that while the assumed connection between rising unemployment and rising divorce used to be what happened, over the last several decades there has been a growing disconnect between the two negative events. Or at least there has been a different response to unemployment when it comes to staying in or ending a marriage.

The researchers looked at nationwide data on unemployment and divorce between 1960 and 2005. Pittsburgh divorce attorneys noted that the researchers concluded that before 1980 the trends followed expected outcomes. That is, as unemployment rates rose, so did divorce rates.

After 1980, though, divorce rates fell, even in periods of rising unemployment.

For example, unemployment went from 4.6 percent in 2007 to 10.2 percent in 2010, but in the same period divorce rate fell by 1.4 percent between 2007 and 2008, and fell a further 2.8 percent between 2008 and 2009.

The post-1980 data could be interpreted as saying that rising unemployment keeps more couples together, but why would that be?

One assumption is that spouses might tend to stick together in a time of crisis. The researchers were more convinced by an alternate theory, however.

They point out in their study that the average standard of living for married people has risen substantially since 1980. As more women have entered the workforce, more married households have two incomes to draw from.

The researchers speculate that more people are wary of giving up their improved standard of living. They are reluctant to support two households on one income when they are accustomed to one household and two incomes.

If this explanation holds true, an improvement in the housing and job markets could cause a rise in divorce rates in the coming years.

“Source: HuffPost Business “Unemployment And Divorce: The Surprising Connection” 5/4/2011


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