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Has the 'Great Recession' affected divorce rates?

While most demographic shifts do not occur rapidly, the Great Recession and subsequent events may have the ability to change this notion. Recently researchers have explored what effect the recession has had on divorce. Similar to the data surrounding current marriage rates and the ongoing economic malaise, the data regarding divorce in this area does not yet appear to be definitive.

Journalists and researchers appear focused on how the difficult financial times may be remolding family life in Colorado and nationally. The economy has seemed to play a role in adding to the number of young adults residing with their parents, as well as an overall increase in multiple generations living under one roof. Cohabitation, already on the rise for decades, may have increased even more due to elevated unemployment and financial pressure. There is also said to be a correlation between poor economic times and lower birth rates.

Historically, divorces dropped during the depression in the 1930's, which many believe will be an effect of the most recent recession as well. One cause may be that a couple is does not want to face the financial strain traditionally associated with divorce during hard times.

On the other hand, stress from losing a job or a home or other economic injury might increase the risk of one's marriage dissolving. Some studies show that hard times decrease the sense of mutual goals that support a marriage because couples typically shy away from purchasing a house or making other major investments. A confounding factor is that the divorce rate has been declining for decades, and as such, it is difficult to glean how much of a role the economy has factored into that change.

At the same time, a wide variety of factors contribute to divorce that are unrelated to the performance of the economy. While each marriage's circumstances differ based on the parties involved, there is a common method of dissolving it according to state-sanctioned divorce laws. When times are tough, however, a crucial factor in negotiating a divorce settlement may be finding a path to a fair settlement that considers the financial future of both parties.

Source: Pew Research Center, "Divorce and the Great Recession," D'Vera Cohn, May 2, 2012

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