Good News, Lovers. The Divorce Rate Is Declining.

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Most Americans have heard that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. But recent data suggest marriages are lasting longer, in part because of economic change.
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Most Americans have heard that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. The statistic is often reported in celebrity break-ups or reports on the supposedly-splintering American family.

But the truth is that the state of American marriage is strong. Justin Wolfers, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, has studied marriage and family data for years.

He and his partner in life and work, Professor Betsy Stevenson, have consistently found that, while the divorce rate spiked in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it has steadily declined over the last 30 years. 

As Wolfers tells The Takeaway's John Hockenberry, his theory behind the divorce peak and decline is an economic one. Couples who wed in the 1950s and earlier, like Wolfers's own grandparents, often abided by the "opposites attract" mantra: While one spouse, usually the husband, specialized in work outside the home, the other, usually the wife, specialized in housework. 

Today, Wolfers says, the economy has upended the traditional, specialist marriage. Modern technology and conveniences like prepared food and ready-to-wear clothes have rendered homemaking unnecessary. Most households require two incomes, and outward workplace discrimination against women continues to erode.

The result, Wolfers explains, are modern couples like him and his wife: Partnerships made up of two professionals who bond over shared interests and time spent together. 

In sum, when it comes to marriage, opposites no longer attract.