May 11, 2010

Marriage not in such bad shape as you think...

...The 50 percent divorce rate is really a myth. The 20-year divorce rate for couples who got married in the 1980s is actually around 19 percent. Everyone thinks marriage is such a struggle and it�s shocking to hear that marriage is actually going strong today. It has to do with how you look at the statistic. If the variables were constant, then a simple equation might work to come up with the divorce rate. But a lot of things are changing. And it is true that there are groups of people who have a 50 percent divorce rate: college dropouts who marry under the age of 25, for example. Couples married in the 1970s have a 30-year divorce rate of about 47 percent. A person who got married in the 1970s had a completely different upbringing and experience in life from someone who got married in the 1990s. It's been very clear that divorce rates peaked in the 1970s and has been going down ever since.

I also think that there's a political agenda on either side of the spectrum. There's the built-in incentive to identify crises. If you're a researcher you can study them; if you're an advocacy group you can get funding and support. There's not a lot to be gained for your cause if you say, "Everything's pretty good right now." That doesn't generate a headline or supporters or grants. You see it in all areas of social sciences, but it�s part of the reason why this crisis of the American marriage has been overstated....

Well, I hope it's true. Of course one problem is that fewer people do get married. There a lot of couples just cohabiting, even having children without marriage. I'd guess that the real marriage statistic should include them—most such people would have gotten married in past times—and that the real statistics are therefore worse than they look...

Posted by John Weidner at May 11, 2010 7:06 PM
Weblog by John Weidner