Many people believe that financial stress is the number one reason why couples divorce. But divorce rates have actually declined during our recent recession. Although you may find this fact odd, a decrease in divorce rates during economic recessions is actually a trend. Divorce rates decreased during the Great Depression, the 1990-1991 recession, as well as the most recent recession. In fact, economists regularly predict a decline in the divorce rate during recessions and spikes in the divorce rate during times of economic improvement.
So why do divorce rates decrease during recessions? Do divorce rates decrease because couples are willing to do more to make their marriages work during times of economic hardship? Many economists and divorce lawyers speculate that divorce rates decrease during recessions because couples can’t afford divorces during difficult economic times. Rationales for postponing a divorce include waiting until married couples can find someone to buy their house and waiting until couples can accrue enough assets individually so that they can live separately without too much hardship. As a result of postponing divorces, some divorce lawyers suggest that many couples remain stuck in failing marriages and that prolonging the lifetime of the marriage is unlikely to repair a deteriorating marriage.
Will the divorce rate spike when the U.S. economy gets back on track? Recently, some economists have questioned the likelihood of a spike because of the results of a National Study that have surfaced. According to the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, while the recent recession has both brought considerable stress to some couples, it has also strengthened marriages. Data shows that while an increase in economic stress directly correlates to a decrease in the happiness couples experience, 82% of respondents reported being happy in their marriage during this recession. Moreover, 3 in 10 respondents stated that the stress of the economic recession had actually “deepened” their commitment to marriage, and 38% percent of couples who had been considering divorce prior to the recession, put their plans of getting divorced aside after their finances improved. The author of the study suggested that a possible reason for the reconnection of couples during a recession is that in the face of tough times, while some relationships spiral downwards, others prove to be resilient and become stronger.
Of course every marriage reacts differently to financial hardship. However, studies seem to indicate that generally speaking, divorce rates go down during recessions and rates go up when the economy is healthy.