U.S. Divorce Rate Declining Thanks to Millennials

A new study by the University of Maryland suggests shifting attitudes toward marriage are contributing to the decline.

Wedding Day

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Wedding Day

Congratulations, millennials: You’re better at staying married than previous generations.

According to a Bloomberg report, the U.S. divorce rate has dropped by 18 percent from 2008 to 2016. The publication cites a newly published study by the University of Maryland, in which sociology professor Philip Cohen partly attributes the decline to millennials’ untraditional approach to marriage.

The data shows adults under the age of 45 are waiting longer to tie the knot. Many young people are no longer succumbing to societal pressures, and have chosen to hold off on marriage until they’re on track with their careers and finances. Others have also refused to settle, and are becoming increasingly picky about whom they get hitched to.

“Age specific divorce rates show that the trend in the last decade has been driven by younger women (despite higher divorce rates among older women than in the past),” the study reads. “Finally, I analyze the characteristics of newly-married couples over the last decade, and identify trends that portend further declines in divorce rates. Marriage is become [sic] more selective, and more stable, even as attitudes toward divorce are becoming more permissive, and cohabitation has grown less stable. The U.S. is progressing toward a system in which marriage is rarer, and more stable, than it was in the past, representing an increasingly central component of the structure of social inequality.”

As Cohen points out, the rate of marriage has also declined over the past several decades, which—along with the increase in U.S. life expectancy—has contributed to the falling divorce rates. However, when Cohen controlled for factors such as age, he found marriage splits still dropped 8 percent within that eight-year period.

Cohen said this decrease may be a reflection of the shifting attitudes toward marriage, as many young people no longer see it as an obligation, but rather an indicator of success. “One of the reasons for the decline is that the married population is getting older and more highly educated,” Cohen said. “Marriage is more and more an achievement of status, rather than something that people do regardless of how they’re doing.”

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