How often do media outlets pontificate and engage in chest beating or finger pointing over the 50% divorce rate? Conservative pundits say it is a sign society is crumbling at the hands of radical feminism, Liberal social commentators blame it on gender inequality or poverty. But guess what? The divorce rate has not been close to 50% for a long time, according to Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times.
Somehow the 50% or near figure has stuck, but it is way out of date. Divorces skyrocketed in the 70s and 80s, but since then, have dropped. One of the reasons Miller posited was that views of gender roles and marriage changed. While a couple might have married in the 50s because he was a good earner and she made good biscuits and kept the house clean, the radical social shift caused people to question their concept of society, and therefore, their marriages.
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However, this settled down in due time, and divorces declined in the 90s and the trend has continued. Around 70% of marriages that began in the 1990s survived at least 15 years compared with 65% that began in the 1970s, and the current numbers are even lower. Later marriages, birth control and marrying for love rather than for role-based suitability are factors Miller identifies.
However, the decline in divorce is seen most dramatically among college educated couples. The rate of divorce for those married in 2000 is only 11% for those with college degrees and 17% for those without degrees. One reason for the higher divorce rate among working class couples is that they may be more likely to cling to traditional gender roles, and given the fact that one paycheck is less likely to be sufficient to support a family in the 21st century, these marriages are more likely to fall apart under financial and societal pressure.