marriage trends and divorce trends

144 years of marriage and divorce trends in the U.S.

Eric Garland DataLab

Having just seen a major change in marital equality following the landmark ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, we were interested in the broader marriage and divorce trends.

This chart from Randy Olson highlights the major shifts in marriage and divorce through the modern era.

Of particular note is the drop in marriage rates during the Great Depression – clearly, household formation suffers when unemployment skyrockets.

Also, the rate of divorce doubled during the Baby Boomer era, gently reducing as Generation X became of marital age.

Not reflected in this chart is the fact that the age of household formation dropped during the 1960s, with younger, less mature individuals getting married, very likely due to the historic expansion of prosperity in the United States.

Will we see divorce trends plateau at a low level now that age of household formation is high? Another anecdotal explanation would be the personal experiences of Gen Xers having grown up in broken homes, now less willing to consider divorce a clean or easy solution to personal issues.