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Higher Divorce Rates Mean Better Economy?

A February 18th Bloomberg article Worsening U.S. Divorce Rate Points to Improving Economy reports that perhaps a sign that the economy is improving is the increase of divorces back to pre-2009 levels.  According to the article, in the bad economic times married couples on the rocks could not financially afford to get divorced.  “We couldn’t afford to split.  He needed me in business and I needed him” said Amy Derose, co-owner of an engineering firm with her then husband.  The number of Americans getting divorced has risen for the third year in a row to 2.4 million in 2012, after a 40 year low in 2009.

Divorce has some good outcomes for the economy, the article insists; it forms new households (two after divorce in the place of one before) that need new appliances and furniture as well as prompts more women to enter the work force.  5.3 million new households have formed in the past four years after the numbers had dropped to 400,000 in 2009.  Home construction which suffered greatly during the recession has seen a 67 percent increase in 2013 from 2009.  Divorced fathers often look for apartments nearby to stay involved in their children’s lives.

However, marriage rates, in addition to divorce rates are associated with the strength of the economy.  A University of Arizona paper found that for every one percent increase in joblessness, marriage rates decrease 1.5 percent, while divorce rates decrease 1.7 percent.

“Divorce takes a devastating economic toll on women” University of Utah sociology professor, Nicholas Wolfinger cautions.  While more divorced women do enter the workforce, often times it is out of economic necessity, not choice.  Women often have to carry a greater burden of childcare costs.  67 percent of divorced women are estimated to be in the work force in 2011 versus 60 percent of their married counterparts.  After divorce, women’s per capita household incomes drop as much as 15 percent, and they have higher poverty rates.



  1. gjeong gjeong

    Wow, this is an interesting article. I thought that low marriage rate means better economy. Since women now want to work longer and want higher wages like men do (recently), they do not tend to get married until they are in 30s.(forgive me if I am not right)

    • maxstadts14 maxstadts14

      Perhaps more women in the workforce could have positive implications for the economy, however I am hazy about the connection of low marriage rates and this issue with divorce rates. With high divorce rates, more women go back to the work after their marriage dissolves. I rather doubt that later or less marriage might be good in the long term for the economy. Japan is an excellent example. The appeal of marriage for women has seen devastating blows and many women are choosing careers over getting married to a man who will probably make less money than them but also expect to be picked up after like their mothers did. The lower rates of marriage have been a huge concern because fewer marriages means fewer babies (hence yet another factor in the low birthrate problem in Japan). It is much harder to conceive children the longer women wait after 30 (waiting to wed until their 30’s); fewer babies might actually hurt the economy more than the plus of the potential mom working–of course this is not to say married mom with kids cannot work. With the proper infrastructure for childcare, having babies might not take mom out of the work force for long!

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