Millennials finally have something to brag about to their baby-boomer counterparts. Though they’re often criticised for their lack of loyalty and self-centeredness, it turns out America’s younger generation is showing up the country’s aging population when it comes to marriage. A new analysis by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen revealed the divorce rate in the U.S. dropped by 18% from 2008 to 2016. While researchers have noticed divorce’s downward trend for a few years, there has been little consensus as to why it’s happening. But there are a few theories. Some of the decline can be credited to the aging population as a whole.
As well millennials, unlike baby boomers, are waiting until they are older to tie the knot, after education, careers and finances are all under control. It’s also worth noting fewer people are getting married at all, though that fact alone doesn’t make sense of the decline in divorce. Cohen said America’s married population “is getting older and more highly educated,” and those that are getting married showing a greater level of stickability than generations past. “Marriage is more and more an achievement of status, rather than something that people do regardless of how they’re doing,” Cohen went on to explain.
It should be noted, too, that many of those couples choosing not to get married at all are living together, and often raising kids together. But recent research has revealed cohabiting with a romantic partner is becoming an increasingly unstable proposition. Further, cohabiting before marriage, maybe counterintuitively, has proven to be an unsuccessful way to avoid divorce down the road. In fact, most married couples who cohabited before tying the knot tend to be less satisfied in marriage than those who didn’t. Nevertheless, marriages today have a greater chance of surviving than marriages did 10 years ago, according to Cohen’s research.
“The change among young people is particularly striking,” Susan Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, said of the data. “The characteristics of young married couples today signal a sustained decline in divorce rates in the coming years.” Despite the decline in divorce among millennials, baby boomers have continued to divorce at incredibly high rates, even into their 60s and 70s. From 1990 until 2015, the divorce rate doubled among people aged 55 to 64 and tripled for Americans aged 65 and older, data from Bowling Green’s National Centre for Family and Marriage Research revealed.