Tag Archives: families

Divorce Rates and the Economy


Locked in a loveless marriage for years, the prospect of divorce can seem impossible given certain economic restraints.  Simply put, when you’re broke, you just can’t afford to separate.  So, over the last few years, there has been good news on both fronts: the economy has gone up, as well as divorce rates.

Bloomberg.com found that “the number of Americans getting divorced rose for the third year in a row to about 2.4 million in 2012, after plunging in the 18-month recession ended June 2009, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.”

With the newfound freedom of financial stability, divorce rates have peaked.  This is in stark contrast to the way things were in 2008, on the tail of the massive recession.  Divorce rates shriveled up then.  This is not an anomaly, historically speaking.  As reported by latimes.com, “’This is exactly what happened in the 1930s,’ said Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin. ‘The divorce rate dropped during the Great Depression not because people were happier with their marriages, but because they couldn’t afford to get divorced.’”


According to huffingtonpost.com, “divorce rates declined after the economy took a hit in 2007, which some scholars later hailed as a “silver lining” to the recession, espousing that couples became stronger in a time of crisis.”  A more accurate interpretation of this data has revealed that couples were not banding together to combat the wintry economic climate, but simply that legally separating was not financially feasible for them.  The cost of the divorce itself, court mandated alimony or child support fees, realty agent costs for securing new housing, everyday bills no longer split between two people; these are all factors which keep a couple forcibly intact.

The relationship between divorce and the economy isn’t one sided either.  Since the inception of widespread splitting, divorce has had a resolutely adverse impact on the financial well being of the country.  As stated by economicdevelopment.org:  “Divorce slows economic growth with its negative impact on productivity.”  The newly single enjoy less salary bumps than those in similar positions who are married, especially men.  Equally (negatively) affected are women, and their offspring: “women and children in single-parent households are at particular risk for living in poverty and indeed family earnings for half of the nation’s children have been falling over time,” reports brookings.edu.  However, there is one noteworthy aspect of the economy which is positively affected: the housing industry.  When a couple splits, the need for at least one more lodging often arises.  In some circumstances, both parties will leave the place they currently inhabit, thus two new spaces are sought.  This has contributed to a boost in apartment complex construction, in addition to regular smaller houses.  Then, naturally, are all the new things that go into the home: appliances, furnishings, decorations, etc.

Diamond-Lighthouse-selling-house-grab-handsAn interesting statistic that goes hand in hand with the divorce rate increase is the simultaneous rise in birth rate.  While these two seem diametrically opposed, the reality is that the couples that do indeed stay together during finically booming times are becoming less reluctant to take on the notoriously high costs of child rearing.  “Birth rates and divorce rates are rising. We may even see them rise strongly in the next couple of years, as households who put off these life-changing events decide to act.” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics (theatlantic.com).  Thus a homeostatic level of population is organically reached: some couples are splitting apart, but the ones that stay together are conceiving will vigor.

As the economy (hopefully) continues to rebound, it is not certain whether divorce percentages will be buoyed at the same rate.  Whatever the implications of a thriving national economy ultimately are, most people can agree that it’s a positive thing when we can enjoy more and more freedoms, whatever they may be.


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-Joe Leone