Is “Conscious Uncoupling” Out of Control?

It seems like barely a day passes that we don’t hear someone refer to the “fact” that 50 percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. ABC News referred to the divorce rate as “out of control” when reporting on actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling” from Coldplay singer Chris Martin earlier this year. But the truth is that the rate of divorce has been declining since the early 1980s. Among those who married in the 1990s, the rate of “uncoupling” is around 70 percent. The rate is even lower for those who married in the 2000s.

The myth of the 50-percent divorce rate can be traced back to the 1970s and is considered by many to have been the product of a sweeping feminist movement that provided women with greater choices and freed them from financial dependence on a husband.

But for proponents of traditional marriage, the news isn’t all good. Part of the reason for lower divorce rate stems from the fact that fewer people are getting married. Brad Reifler reports that in 1960, 91% of adults age 25 and over had been married. Today, only about 75% of Americans in that age range have been married, meaning roughly 42 million people in the United States age 25 and over have never married. The decline in the rate of marriage is largely attributed to economic reasons and is not expected to reverse anytime soon.

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