Bras, top sheets, sleeping with clothes and now … divorce. Millennials get blamed for “killing” many trends, and the latest example might mean everyone’s favorite generation to hate is in it for the long haul after tying the knot, according to a new study.
University of Maryland professor Philip Cohen found that from 2008 to 2016, the U.S. divorce rate dropped by 18 percent. What’s causing this downward trend? “The overall drop has been driven entirely by younger women,” Cohen writes.
The study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, has been submitted for presentation at the 2019 Population Association of America meeting, an annual conference for demographers and sociologists to present research.
To measure the divorce rate, Cohen compared the number of divorces to married women. When controlling for other factors like an aging population, the results show only an 8 percent drop, “but the pattern is the same,” Cohen notes.
Since the 1990s, the prevalence of divorce for people under age 45 appears to level off, whereas it continues to rise for people over age 45, Cohen writes. He calls the drop “all the more remarkable” given that Americans have become more accepting of getting divorced and living together before marriage.
While the trend is notable, there are clear factors contributing to Millennials, ages 22-37, according to Pew Research, and some Gen X-er, ages 38-53, staying together.
“One of the reasons for the decline is that the married population is getting older and more highly educated,” Cohen told Bloomberg. The study notes that newly married women are now “more likely to be in their first marriages, more likely to have BA degrees or higher education, less likely to be under age 25, and less likely to have own children in the household,” which Cohen writes can all affect the risk of divorce.
Given these newly married couples are older and more highly educated, the study also predicts the divorce rate will continue to drop.
However, these changing trends indicate that matrimony is becoming more exclusive in terms of socioeconomics.
“Marriage is more and more an achievement of status, rather than something that people do regardless of how they’re doing,” Cohen told Bloomberg. Couples are waiting until they’re more economically stable to marry, and some poorer Americans might not marry at all, the study suggests.
“The trends described here represent progress 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,” Cohen writes.