The Surprising Reasons For The Decline In Divorce Rates

I was born in 1960 and grew up in the New York Metro area. My mother emigrated on her own from Scotland at 19, and my father, a second-generation Jew from NY, were among the minority of couples who remained married for almost 60 years until they died in their late eighties.

They married in their late 20s—later than many of their peers. They struggled with many of the challenges long-term marriages face but managed to beat the odds. A significant number of people I knew as a kid and later in life came from either a divorced family or were divorced themselves after their first marriage. So, I assumed that divorce rates, like the cost of living, was on the rise. I was wrong.

Marital stability is on the rise. Why?

Current Divorce Statistics

Image credit kenchiro168 via Shutterstock.

I took a look at the stats. And why divorces may be on the decline. What are the factors impacting the decline? Let’s take a look.

Crude Divorce Rate 

Photo credit: Karolina Grabowska via Canva.

The crude divorce rate in the U.S. is currently 2.3 per 1,000 people. This figure from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a long-term decline in divorce rates over the past few decades. However, this statistic doesn’t include data from Indiana, California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Minnesota, which may skew the results.

Annual Divorce Numbers 

Divorce Lawyer.
Image credit Freedomz via Shutterstock.

In 2020, around 630,505 divorces were recorded in the U.S., affecting approximately 1.27 million people. 2020 also saw a notable drop in divorce rates, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a 12% reduction in expected divorces.

Graph going down.
Image credit Naypong Studio via Shutterstock.

Since the peak in the 1980s, divorce rates in the U.S. have been steadily declining. This trend has been particularly noticeable since the 1990s, driven by changes in marriage patterns and increased cohabitation.

Demographic Variations 

Sad, depressed older Asian woman.
Image credit Chay_Tee via Shutterstock.

Divorce rates vary significantly among different age groups. The rate for adults aged 25-39 is 24 per 1,000 persons, while for those aged 50 and older, it’s 10 per 1,000. Interestingly, divorce rates among those aged 50 and above have been increasing, a trend known as “gray divorce.”

Marital Duration 

The average length of a marriage in the U.S. is now 19.9 years. In states like Maine and West Virginia, couples often enjoy longer marriages, averaging 22.3 years.

Influencing Factors

Woman thinking. Wondering.
Image credit Cast Of Thousands via Shutterstock.

There are several influencing factors – some of which were surprising to me in how they impact the likelihood of a marriage ending in divorce. They include:

Age at Marriage 

Happy couple.
Image credit Ground Picture via Shutterstock.

The age at which people marry significantly affects the likelihood of divorce. Marriages that start before age 18 have a 48% chance of ending in divorce within 10 years, whereas marriages that begin after age 25 have a much lower divorce rate of 25%.

Individuals are getting married later in life, leading to longer average durations of first marriages before divorce. This trend reflects a shift in societal priorities, a desire for personal growth and stability, and a focus on career and education before marriage.

Education Level 

College graduates.
Image credit EduLife Photos via Shutterstock.

Education also plays a crucial role. Women with bachelor’s degrees who married for the first time between 2006 and 2010 have a 78% chance of their marriage lasting at least 20 years. In contrast, women with only a high school diploma have a lower probability of sustaining their marriage for that long.


couple on couch. popcorn.
Image credit True Touch Lifestyle via Shutterstock.

Couples who live together before marriage are less likely to divorce within the first 20 years. However, couples who cohabit without marrying have higher separation rates than those who marry, showing that formal marriage still provides a stabilizing effect on relationships.

More couples are choosing to cohabitate rather than marry, which can lead to a decrease in divorce rates as these relationships are often less formal and less likely to end in divorce.

Changing societal attitudes towards divorce

couple talking.
Image credit FabrikaSimf via Shutterstock.

Divorce is no longer stigmatized as it once was, and couples are more likely to seek counseling and work through issues rather than immediately opting for divorce.

Financial stability

woman making money sign rubbing fingers together.
Image credit Roman Samborskyi via Shutterstock.

The economic uncertainty of the pandemic has led some couples to delay divorce due to financial constraints, such as the inability to afford two separate households.

Demographic changes

Asian woman with long hair in yellow shirt thinking. Wondering.
Image credit: Pormezz via Shutterstock.

The U.S. population is becoming more diverse, and certain demographic groups, such as Asian Americans, have lower divorce rates compared to other groups.

Marriage education and counseling

Photo credit: SHVETS production via Canva.

Increased access to marriage education and counseling services can help couples work through issues and strengthen their relationships, reducing the likelihood of divorce.

Collectively These Contribute To A Decline

Happy black couple.
Image credit PeopleImages.com – Yuri A via Shutterstock.

These factors collectively contribute to the decline in divorce rates in the United States, indicating a shift towards more stable and committed marriages.

Geographic Disparities

Image credit Sean Pavone via Shutterstock.

Divorce rates differ significantly across states. Massachusetts and Louisiana have the lowest rates at 1.0 and 1.4 per 1,000 people, respectively. In contrast, Wyoming and Alabama have the highest rates, with 3.8 and 3.7 divorces per 1,000 people.

Seasonal Patterns

cracked ice.
Image credit Standret via Shutterstock.

Divorce filings tend to spike between January and March. This seasonal increase is often linked to the stress of the holiday season, prompting couples to reassess their relationships at the start of the new year.

Remarriage Statistics 

Parents fighting. Sad kids.
Image credit wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock.

People who remarry face a higher likelihood of divorce than those in their first marriage. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals who have been married before have a greater risk of subsequent divorces, highlighting the complexities of blending families and past relationship challenges.

Influence of Friends 

men talking seriously.
Image credit WESTOCK PRODUCTIONS via Shutterstock.

Having divorced friends can significantly increase one’s likelihood of getting divorced. Research from Brown University shows that individuals are 75% more likely to divorce if they have close friends who have ended their marriages.

Reasons for Divorce: Common Causes 

infidelity. Husband cheating. Image credit fizkes via Shutterstock.

The leading cause of divorce in the U.S. is basic incompatibility, accounting for 43% of cases. Infidelity and financial issues follow, cited by 28% and 22% of divorced individuals, respectively. Other significant reasons include domestic violence, lack of commitment, and constant arguing.

The primary differences between why men and women divorce:

Bearded man asking why. Question mark.
Image credit: Kues via Shutterstock.

There are some concrete differences in why men and women initiate or don’t initiate divorce. They include:

1. Emotional Support and Intimacy:

Sad man.
Image credit Prostock-studio via Shutterstock.

   – Women often initiate divorce due to a lack of emotional support, intimacy, and meaningful communication in their marriages. They may feel unappreciated and unheard, leading to a sense of disconnection and dissatisfaction.

   – Men, on the other hand, tend to stay in marriages longer despite feeling unhappy, often due to societal pressures and the fear of losing financial stability or access to their children.

2. Financial Independence and Responsibility:

Photo credit: Mikhail Nilov via Canva.

   – Women are more likely to initiate divorce as they gain financial independence and social support systems, making them less dependent on their husbands for financial stability.

   – Men, in contrast, may be more hesitant to divorce due to concerns about financial loss and reduced access to their children, which can impact their financial stability and social status.

3. Child-Rearing Responsibilities:

Single mom. Time management. Busy mom.
Image credit Kaspars Grinvalds via Shutterstock.

   – Women typically bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities, which can lead to emotional exhaustion and a desire to leave an unhappy marriage. They may feel that exposing children to a dysfunctional marriage is more harmful than a well-handled divorce.

   – Men, while also concerned about their children, may be less likely to initiate divorce due to the stigma associated with being a divorced father and the fear of losing custody or access to their children.

4. Societal Expectations and Emotional Labour:

man feeling left out
Photo credit pixelshot via Canva Pro

   – Women are often expected to manage the emotional well-being of their families, leading to emotional labour and exhaustion. This can contribute to their decision to initiate divorce.

   – Men, conditioned to be stoic and suppress their emotions, may find it harder to acknowledge their emotional needs and initiate divorce.

5. Personal Growth and Fulfillment:

women carrying yoga mats.
Image credit Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock.

   – Women are more likely to seek personal growth and fulfillment outside of their marriages, leading them to initiate divorce when they feel their needs are not being met.

   – Men, while also seeking personal growth, may be more hesitant to initiate divorce due to societal pressures and the fear of being seen as failures or less masculine.

The top 10 reasons men file for divorce in the United States include:

Cheating woman.
Image credit Antonio Guillem via Shutterstock.

1. Infidelity: Infidelity is a leading cause of divorce, with 59.6% of divorces attributed to extramarital affairs.

2. Lack of Appreciation: Feeling unappreciated by their partner is a significant reason men file for divorce.

3. Lack of Affection: The absence of emotional and physical affection can lead to feelings of disconnection, prompting men to seek divorce.

4. Lack of Commitment: A lack of commitment from their partner can erode trust and lead to divorce, with 75% of individuals citing this as a major reason.

5. Financial Disagreements: Disagreements over financial management and spending can cause significant stress, leading to divorce.

6. Addiction: Addiction to substances, gambling, or other behaviors can create instability and strain on the relationship, leading to divorce.

7. Lack of Intimacy: A lack of emotional and physical intimacy can lead to feelings of disconnection and isolation, contributing to divorce.

8. Lack of Equality: Feeling that the responsibilities and burdens of the relationship are not shared equally can lead to resentment and divorce.

9. Poor Communication: Inadequate communication can lead to misunderstandings, unresolved conflicts, and ultimately, divorce.

10. Major Life Trauma: Significant life events such as critical injuries, the death of a child, or infertility can put immense pressure on a relationship, leading to divorce.

The top 10 reasons women file for divorce include:

Cheating man.
Image credit VGstockstudio via Shutterstock.

1. Infidelity: Infidelity is a significant reason for divorce, with 29.2% of women citing it as the cause of their breakup.

2. Incompatibility: Differences in life goals and ambitions can lead to divorce as couples grow apart and find it difficult to reconcile their differences.

3. Lack of Emotional Connection: A lack of emotional connection and intimacy can erode the bond between partners, leading to divorce.

4. Differences over Finances: Financial disagreements and differences in spending habits can cause significant stress and lead to divorce.

5. Lack of Communication: Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and unresolved conflicts, ultimately contributing to divorce].

6. Physical or Mental Abuse: Abuse, whether physical or mental, is a major reason for divorce, as it can create an unsafe and unhealthy environment.

7. Loss of Love: When the emotional connection and love between partners fade, it can lead to divorce.

8. Not Meeting Family Obligations: Failure to fulfill family responsibilities can create tension and lead to divorce.

9. Employment Problems: Issues related to employment, such as job loss or career conflicts, can contribute to divorce.

10. Drinking/Drug Use: Substance abuse can create significant problems in a relationship, leading to divorce.

The Takeaway

fighting couple.
Image credit Nicoleta Ionescu via Shutterstock.

The decline in divorce rates in the United States is a multifaceted trend influenced by various factors. Key drivers include the increasing age of first marriage, with couples marrying later in life and being more financially and emotionally prepared for long-term commitment. Additionally, the shift towards more selective marriages, particularly among the educated and financially secure, has contributed to a decrease in divorce rates.

The growing acceptance of cohabitation and the decline of the stigma associated with divorce have also played a role. Furthermore, the rise of companionate marriages, where partners prioritize emotional connection and mutual support, has led to more stable relationships. Finally, the increased access to education, counseling, and financial resources has equipped couples with the tools to navigate marital challenges more effectively. Overall, the decline in divorce rates reflects a shift towards more intentional and resilient marriages.

Can Your Marriage Survive An Affair?

Beautiful mature woman hugging her husband, showing HUSH gesture, having secret affair, texting her lover on smartphone. Adultery, relationship issue, marriage cheating, hidden love concept
Image credit Prostock-studio via Shutterstock

We asked these questions: How many marriages end as a result of extramarital affairs? Why do people cheat? What are the legal implications of infidelity? Can the marriage be saved? READ: Can Your Marriage Survive An Affair?

The Beauty Of Second Marriages: Why Round Two Often Triumphs

Happy older couple.
Image credit fizkes via Shutterstock.

It turns out that second marriages often emerge as the true gems, exceeding the sense of fulfillment and contentment found in the initial journey down the aisle. But what makes these unions stand out? Let’s explore the compelling reasons why second marriages often feel like a breath of fresh air. READThe Beauty Of Second Marriages: Why Round Two Often Triumphs

Family First: A Gentleman’s Guide To Dating A Single Mom And Bonding With Her Kids

holding hands.
Image credit Pushish Images via Shutterstock.

Dating a single mom comes with its own set of guidelines and considerations, distinct from other dating scenarios – and it can be rewarding, as well. Here are some key points to keep in mind if you find yourself in this situation. READFamily First: A Gentleman’s Guide To Dating A Single Mom And Bonding With Her Kids

Join Us

The Queen Zone Join Us Feature Image
Image Credit The Queen Zone

Join us on this empowering journey as we explore, celebrate, and elevate “her story.” The Queen Zone is not just a platform; it’s a community where women from all walks of life can come together, share their experiences, and inspire one another. Welcome to a space where the female experience takes center stage. Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a thing, Queen!


  • Robin Jaffin

    As the co-founder and managing partner of the digital media partnership Shift Works Partners, LLC through two online media brands, FODMAP Everyday® and The Queen Zone she has played a pivotal role in promoting dietary solutions for individuals with specific needs in the health and wellness industry as well as amplify the voices and experiences of women worldwide.

    View all posts

Similar Posts