Monday, August 30, 2010

The Un-Divorceds, and the Never-Marrieds

Another New York Times article published recently addresses the forces which cause couples to remain married, even though their relationship does not fit the standard definition of "married."  Perhaps they are living in separate bedrooms, or perhaps they are living on opposite coasts.

The following are some of the primary reasons, according to the article's author, why couples sometimes don't feel it's necessary to divorce:

- Aversion to lawyers/courts
- Desire to avoid a potentially ugly divorce
- Maintaining health insurance for both parties through the employer of one party
- Benefits which come from filing joint tax returns
- Future Social Security benefits
- No desire to remarry, or an excuse not to remarry
- Inability to sell jointly-owned home

The bottom line appears to be financial; interestingly, the majority of couples who choose not to divorce make that choice for the money and benefits, rather than for, for example, their kids.  Is this a reflection of our financially-strapped times?  Definitely.

But does it also indicate that, as a society, we feel differently about divorce and rearing children than we did previously?  Probably so.  The rate of unmarried births is rising, according to statistics in the last post.  The societal trend for change of this type is circular: things which are more common are more accepted, and as things become more acceptable, they become more common.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Marriage and Divorce Statistics

Over the last few decades, divorce rates have actually fallen.  According to a USA Today article, divorce rates peaked in 1981 at a rate of 5.3 divorces per 1,000 people.  When the article was published in 2007, that rate had fallen to 3.6 divorces per 1,000 people.  Provisional CDC data through August 2009 show an even lower rate: 3.4.  There is debate over the oft-cited statistic that half of today's marriages will end in divorce; "experts" cited in the above-linked USA Today article indicate that the divorce rate measured by that statistic is somewhere between 40 and 45%.

It is generally agreed that divorce rates are lower among more highly-educated and affluent couples, as well as among couples who delay marriage (USA Today, Time Magazine).  Similarly, a research paper out of Harvard University entitled The Spread of Single-Parent Families in the United States since 1960 reports that "whereas divorce leveled off around 1980, the fraction of children born out of wedlock continued to rise until the mid-1990s. Since then the rate of increase has slowed dramatically," though it is still increasing.  The paper also indicates, though, that much of this rise may be due to unmarried but cohabitating couples, although research is mixed regarding whether those couples will eventually marry or split up.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Recession and Family Life

Judith Warner wrote an article for the New York Times on August 6, 2010, entitled "What The Great Recession Has Done to Family Life."  The following is an excerpt:

"The most devastating losses in household wealth over the past two years have been suffered by the middle class. And families are fraying at the seams. The Pew poll showed nearly half of people who had been unemployed for more than six months saying their family relationships had become strained, and a New York Times/CBS poll of unemployed adults last winter found about 40 percent saying they believed their joblessness was causing behavioral change in their children.

Parents who have jobs are working longer hours than ever. Mothers are taking shorter maternity leaves. The birth rate is on the decline. The divorce rate is declining, too — it’s too expensive for people to break up their households — but that’s not necessarily a family-friendly thing, as a report from the Council on Contemporary Families noted in April: 'We know from the experience of the Great Depression of the 1930s that divorce rates can fall while family conflict and domestic violence rates rise.'"

The costs of divorce and running two households are daunting, especially during these tough times.  However, it is important to remember that your and your family's safety should always be your top priority.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

State-by-State Divorce

The Pew Research Center compiled statistics on marriage and divorce rates across the country, and came out with this interactive comparison map.

Missouri has more people married, and more people divorced, than the national average.  Consequently, Missouri also has a higher-than-average percentage of people married 3 or more times (7% in Missouri versus 5% nationwide).

(There are also a number of interesting "Related Reports" on the sidebar of the Pew Research Center page.)