- The divorce rate has declined since 2000
- Divorce decline during the pandemic
- Possible explanations for the declining divorce rate
- Divorce still happens
Calculating the divorce rate can be tricky. Today, our current published divorce rates are created by dividing the number of marriages reported nationally each year by the number of divorces reported each year. According to the most current numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our national rate of divorce as of 2020 hovers around 45%.
But current marriage and divorce statistics are limited in what they can tell us about the national average since divorce and marriage rarely happen in the same year. Further, divorce rates vary from state to state, and some states do not report them at all.
Although the methodology may be slightly flawed, annual results do show us one thing: Divorce has declined in the U.S. over the last two decades.
The divorce rate has declined since 2000
Since the inception of the U.S., divorce has been considered somewhat of a taboo. People in the “olden days” traditionally married young, had lots of kids, and rarely divorced.
But the 1960s and 70s saw a significant societal change. Cohabitation became acceptable, more married women went to work outside the home, birth control was readily available, and higher divorce rates – specifically no-fault divorce – became commonplace.
By the 1970s and into the 1980s, divorce filings reached an all-time high.
Divorce rates have tracked slightly up and down over the years since then, but not significantly. Until recently, that is.
Divorce decline during the pandemic
Divorce during COVID may have been an interesting study in marriage and resilience. While the pandemic was expected to strain married people and even lead to a spike in domestic violence, the opposite seemed to happen if the decline break-ups in 2020 is any indication.
It’s possible that because of lockdowns and the lack of services, many married couples simply put off divorce court. But there is also another possibility. Was it the lockdown that kept people away from divorce courts or the ability of families to finally get some dedicated, quality time together that led to the downturn of divorce during the pandemic? While experts expected that 2021 would see a pent-up demand for divorce, divorce rates reported by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research showed no change between 2020 and 2021.
Possible explanations for the declining divorce rate
While we know that divorce is on the decline, we know that marriage is on the decline as well.
According to the Pew Research Center, marital status may be one root of the change. More individuals than ever before are remaining single. A recent report showed that over the past three decades, the share of married adults aged 25 to 54 fell from 67% in 1990 to 53% in 2019. Over that time, the number of adults in cohabiting relationships more than doubled, yet the number of these cohabiting adults still wasn’t enough to offset the drop in marriage.
Why is the marriage rate falling along with the divorce rate?
Social norms concerning marriage are changing with younger age groups. Unlike Baby Boomers who often had their first marriage at a young age and then went on to divorce and enter second marriages, Gen Xers and millennials are waiting to get married until they feel more established. They are also more deliberate about who they marry and are remaining married longer.
Waiting longer to get married
While it used to be that the 30-year-old demographic was on the precipice of getting “old,” it is now the time when many couples are first considering marriage. Today, many individuals are embarking on postgraduate education and careers when they would have historically gotten married and started families. Women have far more autonomy and choices when it comes to their future, and many have put off getting married and having children because of it.
Lack of money and resources
Today, it’s costly to marry. Add the costs of housing, food, children, and education that go hand-in-hand with married life, and many individuals simply lack the financial resources and security they need to get married and take care of a family. Consequently, there is a widening divide between those who are more likely to marry and stay married – economically advantaged college-educated adults – and working-class and poor individuals who face more economic vulnerability.
Divorce still happens
While the divorce rate is declining, many marriages still end up in divorce court. Myriad factors can result in divorce. Lack of commitment, emotional immaturity, educational and financial disadvantages, infidelity, lack of communication, conflict, and addiction are just some of the many reasons marriages end today.
While the risk of divorce is still a fact of life, it doesn’t have to be a contentious battle. At Hello Divorce, we are dedicated to changing the face of divorce. We offer many different resources, plans, and services so you can be more informed about the divorce process and understand your options.
Have questions? We have answers. Schedule a free 15-minute call.