Sunday, December 07, 2014

Divorce rate up or down?

Economist Justin Wolfers writes in the NY Times:
The divorce rate has been falling for more than three decades. That fact is not news, but it still surprises a lot of people. ...

By this measure, the divorce rate peaked at 5.3 divorces per thousand people in 1981, before falling to 4.7 in 1990, and it has since fallen further to 3.6 in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. Of course, the marriage rate has also fallen over this period. But even measuring divorces relative to the population that could plausibly get divorced — the number of people who are married — shows that divorce peaked in 1979, and has fallen by about 24 percent since.
Others dispute this:
The number of demographers who believe that overall divorce risk has declined is small. Other than Stevenson and Wolfers, we identified only Heaton (2002) and Ivers and Stevenson (2010). The consensus of most demographers, as Schoen and Canudas-Romo (2006) put it, “it is premature to believe that the probability of divorce has begun to decline.” You are entitled to argue that ACS is wrong and SIPP is right. Nevertheless, I think you should acknowledge that the decline of divorce narrative is a minority viewpoint among professional demographers.
I don't know who is right. It sure seems as if we have a lot more broken homes, but I often do not know whether the parents were ever married in the first place.

Whether the divorce rate is going up or down, it is clear that fewer Americans are married today, and fewer are having kids. We are being repopulated by immigrants from Third World countries.

I quoted Wolfers last year on how the US Supreme Court and other laws have promoted divorce by redefining marriage. He has his own peculiar marriage to another economist.

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