Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces

We document key facts about marriage and divorce, comparing trends through the past 150 years and outcomes across demographic groups and countries. While divorce rates have risen over the past 150 years, they have been falling for the past quarter century. Marriage rates have also been falling, but more strikingly, the importance of marriage at different points in the life cycle has changed, reflecting rising age at first marriage, rising divorce followed by high remarriage rates, and a combination of increased longevity with a declining age gap between husbands and wives. Cohabitation has also become increasingly important, emerging as a widely used step on the path to marriage. Out-ofwedlock fertility has also risen, consistent with declining “shotgun marriages”. Compared with other countries, marriage maintains a central role in American life. We present evidence on some of the driving forces causing these changes in the marriage market: the rise of the birth control pill and women’s control over their own fertility; sharp changes in wage structure, including a rise in inequality and partial closing of the gender wage gap; dramatic changes in home production technologies; and the emergence of the Internet as a new matching technology. We note that recent changes in family forms demand a reassessment of theories of the family and argue that consumption complementarities may be an increasingly important component of marriage. Finally, we discuss how these facts should inform family policy debates.

via Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces.

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Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces

2 Responses

  1. Well said Boris! Thanks for your extremely thoughtful response, pulling out a Rutgers marriage study reference =] Nice work.

    Michael Smalley April 22, 2009 at 12:39 pm #
  2. The new-marriage rate was 80 per 1000 women back in 1969. That rate is now 39.2 as of 2007. (source: Rutgers University Marriage Study, compiling CDC data). This is a 50% drop in less than 40 years. It is a huge drop. This is not about people delaying marriage. It’s about people shunning marriage.

    But but … Marriage Is the Bedrock of Society … isn’t it? Nothing that explodes half the time can be the bedrock of anything. Bedrocks have to be stronger than that. At a 50% explosion rate, marriage is more like the Propane Tank of Society. Wait let me correct that. Propane Tanks have a better safety record.

    Boris April 22, 2009 at 5:59 pm #

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