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Divorce in America is down, but so are new marriages


Jure Divich | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 11/12/20

Study finds that break-ups are at a 50-year low.

Divorce in America is down, but so is the number of people getting married.

Those are the findings of a recent look at new data, analyzed by the conservative Institute for Family Studies.

Looking at newly released numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, Wendy Wang, director of research for the IFS, said that divorce hit a “record low” in 2019. 

“For every 1,000 marriages in the last year, only 14.9 ended in divorce, according to the newly released American Community Survey data from the Census Bureau,” Wang wrote. “This is the lowest rate we have seen in 50 years. It is even slightly lower than 1970, when 15 marriages ended in divorce per 1,000 marriages.”

Wang noted that a lower divorce rate translates into longer marriages. “According to the new Census data, the median duration of current marriages in the U.S. has increased almost one year in the recent decade, from 19 years in 2010  to 19.8 years in 2019.”

Even the COVID-19 crisis, with all the domestic stress a lockdown can bring, has not impacted negatively in this area. Citing new findings from the American Family Survey, Wang said the pandemic “has actually brought some couples closer to each other. … A majority of married Americans (58%) say that the pandemic has made them appreciate their spouse more and half agree that their commitment to marriage has deepened. Moreover, initial data from some states suggests that divorce filings have indeed declined. It is likely that divorce may increase a bit after COVID-19 because of the pent-up demands, but the overall decline in divorce appears to be a consistent trend.“

Wang called this “great news for Americans who are married.”

“It means that their marriages will likely be more stable, and their children will be more likely to grow up with two married parents, which provides them the best chance for success later in life,” she said. 

However, the new Census data also show the U.S. marriage rate hitting an all-time low in 2019. For every 1,000 unmarried adults in 2019, only 33 got married. This number was 35 a decade ago in 2010 and 86 in 1970, Wang noted.

“What’s worse, all signs point to a continuing downward trend for new marriages,” she said. “On top of the already record high share of never-married adults, Americans are postponing their marriage plans because of the pandemic. The initial state-level data suggests that a dramatic decline in marriage certificates filed during the COVID-19 crisis. Given that ‘can’t afford a wedding’ and ‘not having a stable job’ ranked high on the reasons why today’s singles are not married, it is reasonable to predict that fewer singles will tie the knot amidst a pandemic when financial distress is high.”

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