What Does the Dropping Divorce Rate Mean?

For quite some time, commentators have emphasized that approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce. However, according to a recent article in Time Magazine, that statistic really does not hold true. To be sure, although about half of all marriages did end in divorce in the 1980s and 1990s, researchers now suggest that only about 39% of marriages end in divorce, suggesting that more people are finding ways to make their relationships work. Yet the article intimates that, while the declining divorce rate "sounds like such promising news," it "does not mean more people are living happily ever after."

What does the declining divorce rate actually mean, and how does it affect marriage and divorce rates in Michigan?

Fewer People are Getting Married

The biggest reason for the declining divorce rate is that fewer people are getting married. Then, when they ultimately decide to get married, they are "becoming more selective." The article suggests that this is not necessarily a good thing because the reason for fewer marriages is that many people in the Millennial generation do not feel that they are financially stable enough, or at a secure point in their careers, to enter into marriage. Fewer people have jobs that feel long-term, and income inequality is becoming more stark.

As a result of these social and financial obstacles, many people are making the decision to move in together without getting married. But the declining divorce rate does not mean that these relationships are working out more often than marriages among similar age groups in previous decades. Rather, many Millennials in live-in relationships continue making the decision to break up, but there are no longer legal statistics that we can track. Many people who are in these situations even decide that marriage does not make sense because, if divorce does happen, they will need to hire a lawyer, deal with property division, and maybe even pay alimony.

Problems Associated With Cohabitating Instead of Getting Married

All of this information means that more people are cohabitating without the intention of getting married, and the article suggests that they may be cohabitating for the wrong reasons. For many people who move in together, the decision to cohabitate "solves a looming liquidity, logistical, or loneliness problem." Lower-income couples tend to be the ones making these decisions.

In brief, there are more people living together without being married than in previous decades, and more of those people are not getting college educations. In total, about 16% of these cohabitating couples are living below the poverty line. Moreover, those cohabitating couples are also having unplanned pregnancies at higher rates. According to a study conducted by the Brookings Institute, there is a 50-50 chance that any child born to a cohabitating couple that is not married results from an unplanned pregnancy, and more than 50% of those children born into those relationships will end up in a single-parent household by the time they reach the age of 9. Nearly 30% of those single-parent households end up living below the poverty line. In comparison, only about 20% of children born to married couples end up in single-parent households during their childhood.

So, what does the dropping divorce rate mean? The article sums it up: Those who are getting married todaymay be staying married longer than in the past, but the group is growing smaller and more privileged all the time.

Learn More from a Michigan Divorce Lawyer

Do you have questions about filing for divorce, or questions about the divorce process in Michigan more generally? A Michigan divorce lawyer can help. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins to learn more.