By John Clark
The national divorce rate fell sharply during the latest recession, but researchers say that financial troubles did not actually solve unhappy marriages, according to a recent report from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
While the national divorce rate has been slowly falling for several years, the rate of the slowdown “accelerated during this current recession,” according to Abdur Chowdhury, a Marquette professor who led the study.
Chowdhury also noted that the “drop was more significant than we have seen in previous recessions,” according to sources.
The study, which will be published in Applied Economics Letters early next year, found that the divorce rate in the United States fell to 16.9 per 1,000 married women in 2008, which was a significant drop from the rate of 17.5 divorces per 1,000 married women in 2007, sources say.
But just because people are filing for divorce at a lower rate than they were four years ago does not mean that troubled financial times improve the happiness of married couples.
On the contrary, the recession reduced the number of available jobs and reduced the value of married couples’ assets, which in turn may have dissuaded many married couples from seeking a divorce.
According to Chowdhury, when the economy is healthy, and jobs are plentiful, married couples may be less reluctant to part ways, which could explain the higher divorce rate during times of economic growth.
In fact, the data collected by the researchers showed that, over the past three decades, the rate of divorce tended to rise when the amount of disposable income available to the average American grew.
While researchers had heard “some anecdotal evidence” of this phenomenon during a recession, their study “shows statistically how economic crises impact marriage and family,” according to Chowdhury.
Of course, while Chowdhury may have unearthed a fascinating bit of truth about American divorces, not everyone is pleased with the news.
According to Cathy Johnston, a Minneapolis-based family therapist, couples who stay married for strictly financial reasons could be making a big mistake.
In particular, married couples with children can create a very “unhealthy” environment if they choose to stay together because they believe they can’t afford a divorce.
In some jurisdictions, people who cannot afford a typical divorce, and aren’t contesting any issues, may be able to waive their court costs in a divorce.
Moreover, many divorce filers find that the cost of a divorce is ultimately worth the peace of mind granted by a fresh start. Especially in the midst of uncertain economic times.