According to various recent divorce statistics, millennials are divorcing
less than previous generations—or are they?
People love to throw out statistics like "50% of marriages end in
divorce." The truth is, figuring out an accurate divorce rate is
incredibly difficult. Today, we're exploring whether millennials are
actually divorcing less than previous generations and if so, why.
What's the Actual Divorce Rate in the US?
People love to quote that around 50% of US marriages end in divorce, but
that's not really accurate. The divorce rate is measured in number
of divorces per 1,000 marriages. In 1980, the US divorce rate peaked at around
22.6 divorces per 1,000 marriages—a divorce rate of around 50%, which is where that popular statistic
But the divorce rate in the US has steadily dropped since then. In 2007,
17.5 divorces occurred per 1,000 marriages. In 2020, that figure dropped
only 2.9 divorces per 1,000 married individuals. That's a huge decrease.
However, there are some caveats. The US Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), which collects the data fro the divorce rate, only gathers
information from 45 states and D.C. California, the most populous state
in the US, doesn't take part in reporting its divorce rate. If the
divorce rate in California and other non-reporting states is higher than
the national divorce rate, that could drive the national divorce rate
up, but not by much.
Most studies indicate that falling divorce rates among millennials are
largely responsible for the decrease. It's certainly not the boomers
or Gen Xers—the divorce rate for adults 50 and older
has roughly doubled in the past 25 years, so millennials and zoomers are largely responsible
for driving it down.
That just leaves us with one question: why are millennials divorcing less
than previous generations?
Millennials Get Married Later
EHarmony, an online dating site, surveyed millennials in 2018 and found
that American couples aged 25-34 knew each other for an average of six
and a half years before tying the knot. Older age groups averaged about
a year less than that.
That data mirrors other statistics indicating that the median marriage
age has risen considerably in recent years. In 1970, men and women got
married at 23 and 20.8 years old, respectively. In 2018, those figures
had increased to
29.5 and 27.4, around seven years for both groups.
The fact that most millennials are waiting until they're around thirty
on average to marry is significant because the oldest millennials will
only turn 39 in 2020. In other words, most millennials who are married
have only been with their partner for around a decade.
Some experts argue that, as more time passes, the millennials divorce-rate
may climb to match previous generations. Others contend that because millennials
wait longer to marry, they're more committed to the partners they
do end up with. Only time will tell which of these groups is correct,
but the millennial divorce rate is far from set in stone.
Cohabitation Is Becoming Distigmatized
In 2002, 60% of adults aged 18-44 had been in at least on marriage, while
only 54% had cohabited (lived together) without being married. From 2003-2017 those
statistics almost flipped. As of 2017, 59% of adults 18-44 had cohabited with a partner, and only
50% had been married. Today, the figure for cohabitation is likely even higher.
In other words, cohabitation has largely been destigmatized over the last
couple of decades. Increasing acceptance of cohabitation could allow couples
to truly identify whether they function well together as a team, leading
to happier marriages and lower divorce rates.
Millennials & Financial Stability: Another Factor
The last thing we'll mention here is that many millennials cite a lack
of financial stability as their reason for waiting to get married. For
example, in that cohabitation study we linked earlier, many millennials
cited finances as a reason for living with each other—but also said
that they were waiting to become more financially stable before getting married.
Millennials achieve financial stability at an older age than previous generations
(through no fault of their own). While the cost of living has exploded,
particularly in cities, wages have stagnated—millennials make
20% less than previous generations at every stage of their careers when accounting for inflation, despite
being better educated on average.
The lack of financial stability for younger generations drives up the marriage
age and reduces the total number of marriages among younger demographics,
which in turn could have the effect of driving down the divorce rate for
millennials and zoomers.
If you're engaged in a family law case like a divorce, you need legal
counsel you can trust. At the Law Office of Kathryn Marteeny, we help
clients navigate family law cases with confidence.
To learn more about our firm or schedule a consultation with our team,
contact us online.