By James Jennings
Statistics show that half of all marriages crash and burn. Studies also show that the longer you can keep the marriage going the less likelihood that it will end in divorce. But here is the real good news; studies are showing that the divorce rate has been on the decline over the last decade and a half.
So why is the divorce rate on the decline over the last 15 years? Well there is two reasons. The average marriage lasting longer and younger people are cautious about committing to marriage making the average age of first time couples even higher. “Marriage is so much more selective today,” says Bowling Green State University sociologist Susan Brown. From the 1940s until the 1970s, the typical women was barely 20 on her wedding day. Now she’s over 27.
One has to ask, what is the reason for this phenomenon? Blame the baby boomers. Boomers started divorcing at record rates in the 1970s and never stopped. While divorce fell somewhat among younger Americans over the past 25 years, it has soared among older adults. From 1990 to 2012, the divorce rate for 55 to 64-year-olds more than doubled, according to the Bowling Green’s National Center for Family & Marriage Research. The rate for people 65 and older tripled.
Will millennials be better at keeping their vows? Who knows. Just because you’re more selective doesn’t mean you won’t eventually get divorced. And it will take a while to discover the answer: First marriages that fail last a median of 12 years.
“We have no way of knowing what will happen to today’s marriages tomorrow,” says University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen. The only thing sociologists can do is look at current behavior, as he does (based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey) and extrapolate it into the future. And right now, sociologists can only conclude that many millennials and Generation Xers are headed down the same path as baby boomers—toward midlife divorce.
And even if divorce rates continue to decline this doesn’t mean relationships and families are more stable. While fewer people marry, they’re still coupling up and living together. And these marriage-less couplings are far less likely to last than marriages are.