Study: As Economic Conditions Improve, Divorces Start to Rise

There is no disputing the impact that the recent recession had on millions of Americans both directly and indirectly. For instance, while some people lost their jobs or even their homes, others had to take a second job to cover necessities or lower their monthly expenses to make ends meet.

The good news, however, is that things finally seem to be showing signs of improvement as both unemployment and foreclosures are down, and consumer spending is up. In fact, a soon-to-be-published study by researchers at the University of Maryland shows that consumer spending is not the only metric trending upward, as the number of divorces is once again on the rise. 

The report, set to be published in Population Research and Policy Review, found that when the recession was in full effect, the divorce rate plunged rather precipitously — 150,000 fewer than expected divorces from 2009 to 2011 — and that it is now rising slowly but steadily back to pre-recession levels.

To illustrate, the study found that from 2008 to 2009, the divorce rate among married women in the U.S. fell from 2.09 percent to 1.95 percent. However, from 2010 to 2011, the divorce rate climbed back to 1.98 percent.

While some groups attributed the drop in the divorce rate during the recession to tough economic times bringing couples closer together, the researchers believe that it more than likely had a less romantic cause. Specifically, they theorize that improving economic conditions have meant more solid financial footing and therefore more freedom to pursue a split from a spouse.

This notion of the recession doing nothing more than affecting the timing of divorce is shared by many experts.

“This is exactly what happened in the 1930s,” said one sociologist. “The divorce rate dropped during the Great Depression not because people were happier with their marriages, but because they couldn’t afford to get divorced.”

Still, the researchers cautioned that more research was needed to definitively conclude whether the trends in the divorce rate both pre-and post-recession can be almost entirely attributed to economic autonomy on the part of spouses.

If you would like to learn more about divorce or divorce alternatives, you should strongly consider consulting with an experienced attorney who can outline your options and enforce your rights.