Unlike previous generations, millennials are seemingly abandoning divorce. Their behavior contributes to an intriguing social trend at a time when the rate of baby boomer divorce has skyrocketed.
What makes the two generations so different in their approach to marriage and separation? Examining lifestyle changes and adjustments in social perception will reveal why divorce has gone down for younger people.
Millennial Divorce Rates Plummet
The US divorce rate has gone down 18 percent from 2008 to 2016, University of Maryland research suggests.
One of the ways to explain this massive reduction is a demographic shift. The US population is growing older and old people are less likely to get divorced. This demographic shift, however, isn’t sufficient to explain a massive nationwide trend.
The divorce reduction is particularly striking among younger people. In the period from 1990 to 2015, divorce rates doubled for baby boomers. For Americans over the age of 65, divorce rates actually tripled. Young couples, however, aren’t following in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents.
Divorce prevalence has become significantly lower in the 25 to 39 age group. According to Pew Research, the divorce rate in this group has gone down 21 percent. In fact, this is the only age group in the US that isn’t experiencing a massive increase in the number of marriage dissolutions.
Reasons Why Divorce Rates Are Going Down
Several factors contribute to the reduction in divorces among younger people.
For a start, people are waiting and getting married later on in life.
The median age at first marriage has gone up from 26.1 years for men in 1990 to 29.5 years in 2016 and from 23.9 years for women to 27.4. Additionally, people who end up married are more likely to have college education and historically, college-educated individuals are the ones that have the lowest divorce rates.
A few other key differences between baby boomer and millennial marriages are also contributing to more successful unions.
Due to the statistics quoted in the first section, many millennials are the children of divorced parents. They know what it’s like to grow up in a single-parent household or to have complicated arrangements with their non-custodial parent. These childhood memories and personal divorce experiences make many millennials unwilling to even consider separation from a partner.
Apart from being driven by their fear of divorce, millennials are also more likely than their parents to speak of practical or troublesome issues before tying the knot.
In comparison to their parents, millennials are much more willing to sign a prenuptial agreement.
Financial issues are one of the most common baby boomer divorce contributors. Millennials are waiting to get their finances in order before finding a significant other for life. In addition, they do not consider prenuptial agreements to be exclusive to the rich class.
Signing a prenup before marriage protects assets in the event of divorce and gives both people peace of mind. In addition, a prenup can stipulate on many other aspects of the marriage to ensure everyone knows what they’re getting themselves into.
A survey among US lawyers shows that more than half of the professionals questioned saw an increase in the number of prenuptial agreement requests on behalf of millennial clients. The overall increase in prenups has been 62 percent from 2013 to 2016.
Previously, a stigma was attached to discussing financial issues and coming up with an arrangement for the eventual divorce. People today, however, are marrying older. They’ve accumulated some assets on their own before tying the knot. As a result, they’re more keen to discuss practical matters and to protect their wealth.
This is especially true for women who have become more independent and much more capable of making a living on their own in the past few decades. Single women today purchase homes much more often than single men. They attain college degrees and they want to protect everything they’ve managed to accomplish on their own once they get married.
Everyone Can Get Married Today: A More Liberal Society
There’s one final reason why divorce rates have gone down among younger people. Apart from individual changes, society has also evolved. Thus, unions considered impossible in the 60s and 70s have become reality today.
Millennials can marry the person they love without facing limitations. Same-sex, interracial and inter-faith marriages are more common today than they ever were.
Of all people who have gotten married since 2010, 39 percent are in a union with someone of a different faith and public support for same-sex marriages has grown massively in just one decade. In 2007, 54 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriages. The support has gone up to 62 percent in 2017.
Interracial marriages became legal only in 1967 and they were still frowned upon.
Thus, many baby boomers lacked the option to marry the person they love. Narrow societal views and having to get married at a very early age both contributed to people growing distant and wanting out at a later stage of life.
Will millennials keep up the trend? It’s still too early to tell. Society changes rapidly and a single decade contributes to massive paradigm shifts. One thing is certain – generations are learning from the mistakes of the past and they’re trying to rectify the failures of their parents. While millennials haven’t put an end to divorce yet, they’re certainly working towards achieving the stability that many of their parents seemed to lack.
Elizabeth S. Coyle is the current Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law based in Mesa, Arizona. She serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department of the firm.