Rates of Divorce

Eli J. Finkel, a professor of psychology and management and organizations at Northwestern University, observes  “[o]ne of the most disturbing facts about American marriage today is that while divorce increased at similar rates for the wealthy and the poor in the 1960s and 1970s, those rates diverged sharply starting around 1980.”

Finkel cites sociologist Steven P. Martin, who says that for Americans who married between 1975 and 1979 the 10-year divorce rate was 28 percent among those without a high school education and 18 percent among those with at least a college degree – a 10 percent difference. “But among those who married between 1990 and 1994, the parallel divorce rates were 46 percent and 16 percent: an astonishing 30 percent difference.”

Finkel believes the higher divorce rates among the poor are not attributed to the less affluent failing to appreciate marriage, nor is it that poor and rich Americans differ in what they believe is important.

He says the same pressures that have exacerbated inequality in America since 1980 – “unemployment, juggling multiple jobs” – have also made it increasingly difficult for poor Americans to invest the time and energy needed to make a strong marriage.

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