'Gray' Divorces Are On the Rise

Younger couples are sticking it out, but for those 55 and older, divorce rates are increasing
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2019 12:50 PM CDT
'Gray' Divorces Are On the Rise
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/KatarzynaBialasiewicz)

"Till death do us part" seems to have less meaning for those who are currently closer to that endpoint than others. The Wall Street Journal reports on some news out of Bowling Green State University, whose National Center for Family & Marriage Research recently did some research on marriage and divorce rates and found some stark generational differences. The good news is that the overall divorce rate fell 29% from 1979 to 2017, reaching its lowest point in 40 years. (About 1 million couples divorced in 2017.) But not everyone is reaping the benefits of that trend. Looking at National Center for Health Statistics and Census Bureau data from 1990 to 2017, researchers found the divorce rate for 15- to 24-year-olds in that time span dropped from 47 divorces per 1,000 marriages to 27 (a 43% decline), and from 33 per 1,000 to 23 (nearly a third) for 25- to 34-year-olds.

Not much changed for 35- to 44-year-olds and 45- to 54-year-olds, with slight shifts downward and upward, respectively. Then, however, comes a spike of what the Journal refers to as "gray" divorces for those 55 and older: That number climbed from 5 divorces per 1,000 to 15 for those 55- to 64 years old), and from 1.8 per 1,000 to 5 for seniors 65 and older. "It represents the baby boomers," Wendy D. Manning, co-director of Bowling Green's CFMR, tells the Journal. "A lot married young. A lot are in second marriages … [which] are at greater risk of divorce." A recent article in Cosmopolitan, meanwhile, credits millennials for helping to keep the overall divorce rate balanced, with fear of splits and desire to first do other things in life (e.g., career, travel) prompting marriage delays until couples are older. (Read more divorce stories.)

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