Just how much did the Great Recession of 2008-2011 affect divorce rates in the U.S.? According to University of Maryland sociology researcher Philip N. Cohen, from 2009 to 2011, about 150,000 fewer divorces occurred than would otherwise have been expected. Across the country, Cohen has estimated the divorce rate dropped from 20.9 divorces per 1000 married women in 2008 to 19.5 divorces in 2009, at the height of the recession.
However, Cohen also noticed that as the economy started to rebound, beginning in 2010, so too did the number of couples getting divorced. In both 2010 and 2011, the divorce rate among married women had already risen to 19.8. In a new report to be published in the journal Population Research and Policy Review, Cohen says this might be a sign that couples who decided to stay in unhappy marriages for economic reasons decided to end those marriages once the individuals felt on firmer financial footing. With the Great Recession now over, he expects the divorce rate to keep climbing back to pre-recession rates. The last few years, we have seen a rise in couples searching for alternative methods for their divorce, such as the less expensive Mediation process used instead of the more expensive litigated divorce process. While mediation still allows for finalizing a divorce, it isn’t a well known choice.
Is there any kind of precedent for the economy’s affect on divorce? Other researchers point to the Great Depression, where similar patterns were seen in divorce rates.
“This is exactly what happened in the 1930s,” Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin told the Los Angeles Times when asked about the study. “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.” Following the Depression and World War II, divorce rates in New Jersey and the rest of the nation began a dramatic rise.
Did the recession of the past few years affect your decision to divorce?