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The national per capita divorce rate has been steadily declining since the early 1980s when it reached a peak high. Experts are saying that the divorce rate is now one-third of what it was then—having reached a low not seen since 1970.
In the latter half of the 1960s, America’s divorce rates started to climb and then skyrocketed over the next two decades, peaking in 1981 at 5.3 divorces per 1,000 people. Today, the divorce rate is 3.6, but why the decline?
Experts provide different reasons for the decreasing divorce rate. Some attribute it to the increase in number of couples opting for cohabitation over marriage. Since 1960, the number of couples who cohabitate rather than marry has increased tenfold.
Others experts, however, cite what’s called “the divorce divide”—falling divorce rates among couples who are college-educated but not among those who are less-educated or less affluent.
“Families with two earners with good jobs have seen an improvement in their standard of living, which leads to less tension at home and lower probability of divorce,” said professor Andrew Cherlin.
Then there are experts who say couples nowadays have a greater determination not to repeat the mistakes of their parents and to make marriage work. Numerous states across the country are beginning to offer marriage-strengthening services to help couples stay together.
“People don’t see marriage problems as some sort of stigma anymore. They’re really interested in learning how to stay married; a lot of them are realizing they need more skill,” said Bill Chausee of New Hampshire’s Child and Family Services.
Support for Marriage Education
The Bush Administration supports marriage education and strengthening campaigns, disbursing more than $200 million in funding over the past five years through its Healthy Marriage initiative.
Bill Coffin, special assistant for marriage education at the Department of Health and Human Services, said he believes the programs have a lot to do with the declining rate of divorce in the U.S.
“The word is getting out that marriage doesn’t have to be a crap shoot—it’s not the luck of the draw. It’s how you deal with the inevitable conflict and anger in marriage,” Coffin said.
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