According to the new data, the divorce rate in America has been falling rapidly in recent years, before hitting a half-century low in 2019. “For every 1,000 marriages in the last year, only 14.9 ended in divorce, according to the newly released American Community Survey data from the Census Bureau,” reports Wendy Wang of the Institute for Family Studies (IFS).
The average marriage duration in the US has increased almost one year in the last decade, from 19 years in 2010 to 19.8 years in 2019. The lower divorce rate is a reflection of this trend.
The IFS report suggests that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the drop in the divorce rate is likely to continue in 2020. When the novel coronavirus hit the US in March, early signs suggested that stress from lockdowns related to the pandemic may have caused extra divorces. However, the latest data indicates that the crisis has actually brought some couples closer together.
“According to data from the American Family Survey, a majority of married Americans (58%) say that the pandemic has made them appreciate their spouse more and half agree that their commitment to marriage has deepened,” Wang reports.
“Moreover, initial data from some states suggests that divorce filings have indeed declined. It is likely that divorce may increase a bit after COVID-19 because of the pent-up demands, but the overall decline in divorce appears to be a consistent trend.”
This should be pleasant news for married Americans, as it reassures them that their marriages “will likely be more stable, and their children will be more likely to grow up with two married parents, which provides them the best odds for success later in adulthood,” Wang notes.
However, the Census Bureau data also reveals that the US marriage rate hit an all-time low in 2019, with just 33 of every 1,000 unmarried adults tying the knot. By comparison, that figure stood at 35 in 2010 and 86 in 1970.
This is an example of the so-called “marriage divide” continuing to widen. The IFS report notes that Americans with college education and greater wealth are more likely to get married and stay that way, while their poor and working-class counterparts are more often single and deal with more family instability.
“For Americans in the top third income bracket, 64% are in an intact marriage, meaning they have only married once and are still in their first marriage. In contrast, only 24% of Americans in the lower-third income bracket are in an intact marriage, according to my analysis of the 2018 Census data.”
Current data trends show a continuing downward slope for new marriages. In addition to the record-high share of never-married adults, Americans are postponing their marriage plans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic: initial state-level data suggests dramatic decline in the filing of marriage certificates during the public health crisis.
Given that “can’t afford a wedding” and “not having a stable job” ranked high on the list of reasons singles gave for not pursuing matrimony, “it is reasonable to predict that fewer singles will tie the knot amidst a pandemic when financial distress is high,” Wang concludes.