The national divorce rate fell rapidly in the early years of the Great Recession, but don’t get the idea that economic hardship saved struggling marriages, a new study from Marquette University says.
Divorce rates have been falling for years, but starting in 2007, rates began to fall more quickly.
“The rate of decrease accelerated during this current recession,” said Abdur Chowdhury, an economics professor at Marquette who authored the study. “The drop was more significant than we have seen in previous recessions.”
After rising from 16.4 per 1,000 married women in 2005 to 17.5 per 1,000 married women in 2007, divorce rates in the U.S. fell to 16.9 per 1,000 married women in 2008, the study showed. The study, titled “‘Til Recession Do Us Part: Booms, Busts, and Divorce in the United States,” will be published in the journal Applied Economics Letters in early 2013.
Chowdhury used a statistical model and data for 45 states and found that from 1978-2009 the higher the level of disposable income, the higher the incidence of divorce.
Chowdhury argued that during the Great Recession, few employment opportunities and reductions in the value of marital assets – particularly homes – had forced couples to remain together.
“While we heard some anecdotal evidence of this during the recession, this study shows statistically how economic crises impact marriage and family, as well as glimpses into why,” Chowdhury said in a statement.
But as the economy started to slowly recover in 2009 and 2010, pent-up demand for divorce was released and the rates increased.
“It maybe delayed the divorce,” Chowdhury said of the recession.
Cathy Johnston, a marriage and family therapist in Uptown, said she’s seen the same phenomenon, but it’s not necessarily a good thing for couples.
“With the economy’s downturn, people are getting divorced less frequently, from what I’ve seen,” she said.
But economics can force a separated couple to stay in the same home, which can be unhealthy for them and their children. The conflict of the relationship often just continues.
"I'm seeing that a lot," Johnston said.