Study reveals the true impact of the recent recession on marriages

From high unemployment rates and record foreclosures to poor returns in the stock market and decreased consumer spending, there was virtually no aspect of people’s financial lives that went untouched by the Great Recession. However, what about their personal lives?

Interestingly, Abdur Chowdhury, an economics professor at Marquette University, has authored a study examining the effect that our country’s recent economic woes had on the divorce rate.

Using a statistical model and marriage/divorce data from 45 states, Chowdhury made the following intriguing findings in his study entitled “Til Recession do us part: Booms, busts and divorce in the United States:”

  • While divorce rates have been declining consistently for several decades, they dipped even further right around the start of the recession
  • The divorce rate for married women in 2005 was 16.4 per 1,000 married women and eventually rose to 17.5 per 1,000 married women in 2007. However, this rate fell to 16.9 per 1,000 married women in 2008, generally recognized as the start of the recession

“The rate of decrease accelerated during this current recession,” said Chowdhury. “The drop was more significant than we have seen in previous recessions.”

What then was behind this drop in the divorce rate?

According to Chowdhury, the answer is that married couples — particularly those with significant assets — weren’t motivated to end their marriages at a time when employment prospects were so shaky and certain marital assets (i.e., the home) saw their values plunge.

“It maybe delayed the divorce,” he said.

Not surprisingly then, as economic conditions have slowly improved, the divorce rate has slowly started climbing back up to its pre-recession levels.

This is a positive development, argue many marriage and family experts, as a delayed divorce can create a toxic home environment for both spouses and their children.

Chowdhury’s study, the first to quantify the impact of the recession on marriage, is slated to be published in early 2013 in Applied Economics.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

To learn more about dissolution of marriage, spousal support or child custody, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Star Tribune, “Study: Divorce rate fell fast when recession hit,” Adam Belz, Nov. 12, 2012