In 2017, around one million couples in the U.S. called it quits. That may sound like a lot of busted unions, but the rate of divorce—just like the rate of marriage—is down. Today, younger married couples are less likely to split up than they once were, driving the trend. But, at the same time, the rate of divorce for older generations has increased in a phenomenon known as “gray” divorce.
Divorces hit a historical high point in 1979, when 22.6 marriages out of every 1,000 broke up, according to researchers at the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green University. By 2017, the rate had dropped to 16.1 divorces for every 1,000 marriages. That’s a decrease of 29% from the high point and the lowest the divorce rate has been in 40 years.
Among 15-24-year-olds, the divorce rate is down 43% since 1970, compared to a 30% decrease among 25-34-year-olds and statistically insignificant changes among 35-54-year-olds. But for 55-64-year-olds, the divorce rate climbed from 5 to 15 divorces per 1,000 marriages, and 1.8 to 5 per 1,000 for those 65 and older. Says one expert, “It represents the baby boomers. A lot married young. A lot are in second marriages. Second marriages are at greater risk of divorce.”
Find the Wall Street Journal about the research study here and a Kiplinger article about the financial considerations of gray divorce here.