You hear it nearly every day: There’s an epidemic of divorce, with one in two marriages failing. Except it's not the complete picture: The divorce rate is actually falling in America, thanks to economic and behavioral changes.
The big spike in divorce came in the postwar period, particularly the 1970s, a time when women entered the workforce in large numbers and divorce laws were liberalized.
But in the last couple of decades, even as women have continued working and divorce remains an easy legal procedure, the rates have fallenas couples marry later and, some say, are better managing the two-income life that may have been a stress point for past unions.
Changing Marriage Models
Betsy Stevenson of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business says that in the 1950s and 1960s, the benefits of marriage came from men specializing in “market skills,” or being in the workforce, while women specialized in home-making.
As more women entered the workforce, “we started transitioning to marriages with less stark specialization, but many people married the right person for the old model of marriage — which was the wrong person for the new two-earner marriage,” says Stevenson, an assistant professor of business and public policy. “So in other words, we are getting better at picking partners for two-earner marriages."
Divorce statistics bear this out.
TheU.S. Census Bureauproduces a periodic report called “Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces.” It classifies men and women by age group, then categorizes them as “never married,” or some form of “ever married,” including “ever divorced” or “ever widowed.”