Article by Steve Peterson
Well, there’s good news and bad news on the marriage front. The good news: The divorce rate is declining, continuing a downward trend from 1980. The bad news, according to LegalZoom.com, the marriage rate is also declining, down nearly 50 percent since 1970.
It has been reported erroneously for decades that America is plagued by a divorce epidemic. But the fact of the matter is, the national per capita divorce rate has declined steadily since its peak in 1981 and is now at its lowest level in nearly four decades.
So are Americans making better choices about their long-term relationships? Not necessarily. In fact, some experts say relationships are as unstable as ever — and divorces are down primarily because more couples are cohabiting without getting married. An estimated, 5 million couples live together outside of marriage.
In addition, 40 percent of those cohabitation households have children. That’s a potentially unhealthy situation for children, given the fragile nature of these relationships, say researchers.
Does income or class have anything to do with the declining numbers? Maybe. The data suggests that declining divorce rates have been substantial among those couples with a college education. However, the decline is not as great among less-affluent, less-educated couples.
Here is what Andrew Cherlin, a professor of public policy at Johns Hopkins University had to say. “Families with two earners with good jobs have seen an improvement in their standard of living, which leads to less tension at home and lower probability of divorce.”
But there has to be more behind the declining numbers than just the fact that more couples are cohabiting. There is. According to a published AP report, some states have made concerted efforts to combat divorce with publicly funded marriage education campaigns, although their effectiveness remains in question. For example, in Oklahoma, 100,000 people have attended workshops since a marriage initiative began in 2001, but the latest divorce figures showed no drop, and the campaign’s backers no long stress their original goal of cutting divorce by one-third by 2010.
Here’s what high-powered, North Carolina divorce lawyer Lee Rosen had to say:
“People are coexisting more peacefully, whether they stay together or come apart. “They are more contemplative and serious about their relationships, and I see people stay together who once would have allowed the marriage to unravel.”
Author Steve Peterson is the owner of the hot new family website, HomeandFamily101.com