In the you-can’t-make-this-up category — which granted, is pretty gigantic right now — a new study and some media reporting on it is making the case that the decline in the American divorce rate, which normal Americans instinctively think is a good thing, is actually a very bad thing.
Why? Because inequality. Specifically, the cause of the lower divorce rate seems to be young people particularly with college degrees are waiting until their careers and finances are on track to marry, while poorer people with less education are not getting married at all, but instead just living together and having kids.
Married people are generally wealthier in the first place (at the very least, their income is combined into one household, not split into two.) This combined with the college-degree income earning means more wealth among married people. Those who live together are in a more unstable relationship, often resulting in rotating men with a woman and children in a household. That is leaving them even poorer than their married brethren.
See, it’s not about the choices of shacking up and having children with men to whom the mothers are not married, and all the attendant misery that results. It’s that the result is income inequality. Those married people and their choices are becoming more wealthy.
“Fewer divorces, therefore, aren’t only bad news for matrimonial lawyers but a sign of America’s widening chasm of inequality. Marriage is becoming a more durable, but far more exclusive, institution.”
Well that’s a big, fat problem, as inequality in our time of growing socialism and identity politics is an altar at which much of the left and media worship. It must not be defiled.
Here’s what we know.
The latest data shows younger American couples are approaching coupling differently from baby boomers, who tended to marry young like previous generations but then divorce and re-marry, set on repeat, unlike previous generations. Generation X has been slower to marry and millennials much slower, tending to enter into marriage older, once they have obtained a college degree and/or a stable career and their finances are set.
The result is that the U.S. divorce rate dropped 18 percent from 2008 to 2016, according to the study by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen.
Cohen calculated the divorce rate as a ratio of divorces to the total number of married women. So, the divorce rate’s decline isn’t a reflection of a decline in marriages — which has been happening — as it was only among those married. Rather, he believes, it’s evidence that marriages today actually have a greater chance of lasting than marriages did 20 years ago.
Young people’s improvement in the divorce rate is largely because boomers have continued to divorce at historically high rates, continuing to do so into their 60s and 70s. From 1990 to 2015, the divorce rate doubled for people between 55 to 64, and tripled for Americans 65 and older. This “grey divorce” phenomenon is helping the succeeding generation stand out.
“The change among young people is particularly striking,” Susan Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, said of Cohen’s results to Bloomberg. “The characteristics of young married couples today signal a sustained decline [in divorce rates] in the coming years.”
And that will result in more inequality as those married stay wealthier as a cohort, and those cohabitating or divorced remain poorer. And that is the problem liberals and the media see.