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The Divorce Myth That Just Won't Die

A comprehensive study reveals the prospect of marriage isn’t as grim as you might think

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If you’ve ever thought or talked about marriage, then you’ve likely heard (or even perpetuated) the belief that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. Turns out that figure is far from correct, but it still gets passed around more often than the common cold.

Though divorce rates peaked in the 1970s and early ‘80s, those stats have since declined, causing many researchers to believe the institution of marriage is now stronger than ever. According to Justin Wolfers, an economist from the University of Michigan, there’s a good chance as many as two-thirds of marriages won’t end in divorce as long as existing trends continue.

That’s a starkly different perspective from the assumption that one in two married couples end up calling it quits. Many factors help to paint this decidedly optimistic portrait, including postponing marriage, the prevalence of birth control, and more balanced gender roles. That being said, the decline in divorce rates has primarily affected college educated populations. According to The New York Times, those without degrees seem to experience divorce rates similar to those of the ‘70s and ‘80s when breakups reached their peak.

According to Wolfers, only 11 percent of college-educated people who tied the knot in the early 2000s split up before their seventh year of marriage, while 17 percent of less educated couples got divorced. This disconnect has to do with the ability to build a strong financial foundation, the cornerstone of a healthy marriage. Sociologist Andrew Cherlin drove this point home, explaining in an interview with The New York Times, “As the middle of our labor market has eroded, the ability of high school-educated Americans to build a firm economic foundation for a marriage has been greatly reduced.”

Still, for the most part, it seems divorce rates are on the decline. As Mr. Wolfers said, “It’s just [about] love now.”

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