Headlines about Millennials divorcing less splashed across the news outlets this past week. Phillip Cohen from University of Maryland recently published a study focusing on the noteworthy decline of divorce in the last decade. Shaunti and I were thrilled to read about this study and glad it has garnered so much media attention. Both of us have been keeping our eyes open for new research since collaborating together on The Good News About Marriage in 2014. This study indicates a big drop in the divorce rate and supports research we included in the book.
Cohen used the relatively newer American Community Survey (ACS) to study the divorce rate. This in itself is significant because the ACS is only ten-years old, so Shaunti and I were limited in what we could extrapolate from it four years ago. Cohen was able to investigate data from a full decade of surveys and discovered numerous results. Three findings in particular stand out to affirm this positive trend in marriage.
First Positive Trend: Divorce Rate Takes a Nosedive
Cohen found that the divorce rate fell eighteen percent, between 2008 and 2016. That is huge for such a short time frame. When he adjusted for age changes and other factors, the decrease fell slightly, but divorce still decreased by eight percent. Even more, Cohen highlighted in the study that the “overall drop has been driven entirely by younger women.” If divorce is declining in younger women, then most Millennials are actually getting and staying married, unlike what we see on reality television and social media.
Second Positive Trend: Divorce Decline Not Linked to Marriage Rates
The decline Cohen found is not associated or caused by a drop in the marriage rate. There seems to be a constant thread of feedback online whenever a study like this comes along; the divorce rate drop is only due to less people marrying today. In this study, Cohen analyzed married women, then women who divorced in the previous year. By doing this, he could specifically look at the divorce rate for married women in the last decade. In fact, marriages today stand a better chance of making it than even a decade ago. As Shaunti and I pointed out in our book, research shows by age 46, ninety percent of women will walk down the aisle. For all the online discussion and attention on cohabitation and lower marriage rates, many couples still eventually marry.
Third Positive Trend: Specific Factors Lower Odds of Divorce
Cohen identified specific factors about the women marrying in the last decade that complement our findings as well. Women are getting married at an older age, they tend to be well-educated and they are less likely to have their own children before saying I do. All these factors lower the chance and risk of divorce. The percentage drop that Cohen found implies that these factors greatly increase the success of marriage, maybe even more than people realize.
Cohen does suggest that marriage is becoming uncommon with women who tend to be less educated and financially insecure. This is one demographic that avoids tying the knot and as Cohen points out, suffers a “social inequality” for passing up marriage.
Overall, the study shows that the many women in our younger generations still value marriage and are not entering it lightly. Marriage is becoming more stable and women are becoming more selective. Best of all, Cohen identified trends that suggest the divorce rate will drop even more. Now that is definitely good news about marriage!
Tally Whitehead, M.A. P.T. is Shaunti’s Senior Researcher and contributing author for The Good News About Marriage. She is also a freelance writer, spiritual director and on staff at her church. She resides in the Columbus, Ohio area with her husband and four kids. You can follow Tally on Twitter @tallywhitehead or check out her website at www.tallywhitehead.com