“The general assumption is that divorce is always going up,” University of Maryland demographer Philip Cohen tells Tech Insider.
But in crunching the numbers of the American Community Survey, a survey sent by the US census department to 3.5 million address a year, Cohen found that divorce has declined 3% since 2008, the first year that the ACS asked people if they had gotten divorced in the past year.
Cohen — whose blog is demography nerd gold — says there are a few things to consider before getting too excited:
• The divorce rate could theoretically be falling as the percentage chance of getting divorce for today’s newlyweds goes up.
• America is a “disaster when it comes to the demography of divorce,” he says. Notice how the rates are different for men and women. This could come from a situation where one member of a couple that stayed together for a long time but never got married called their breakup a divorce and the other did not.
While the longterm trend is downward when its comes to divorce, there was a bump up around 2011 and 2012.
Cohen says that the recession increased the rate of divorce, but the impact wasn’t immediately felt, since the recession itself was so tied to real estate and foreclosures. Since getting out of a marriage is also often a real estate problem, it delayed the effect.
“It makes sense that it would have not an immediate effect,” Cohen says, “and even reduced divorces in the immediate run.”
But in the long run, divorce is on the wane.
The best explanations, Cohen says, are that marriage is seen as more optional and women are more empowered than they used to be. In the 1960s, he says, something like 90% of the population got married in their 20’s; it was effectively universal marriage. So no wonder that people split up.
But now, Americans are getting married later — a sign that they actually want to do it. Not only that, but women have more earning power and status than they did decades ago, so they’re not dependent on husbands for breadwinning.
Still, it’s not a ton of data, Cohen says. Seven years isn’t a lot.
“I don’t want to give you the impression that this is the last word,” he says.
NOW WATCH: There is a secret fleet of US government trucks transporting nuclear weapons around the country
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.