Divorce rate drops -- should we thank the recession?

king and queen chess piecesRecession seems to be helping couples stay together. The divorce rate is now at its lowest level in 30 years and it may be related to money problems. Per Center of Disease Control National Center for Health Statistics data, the numbers of divorce filings have plunged or at least remained roughly the same in every single state in the 2006-2008 period, which includes the recession.

These statistics are remarkable, considering United States population continues to grow. Interestingly, divorce filings have been slashed by one-third in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York -- northeastern states with heavy exposure to the financial industry that has been battered by today's credit debacle.

While money is the number one issue that couples fight about, it appears they argue more about how to spend it than the lack of it. In fact, part of the trend to stay together may be a reality check of finances and how costly a divorce will be in the long term. Marriage provides economies of scale and it is much cheaper to support one household than two.

According to "Why Did I Marry You Anyway? Overcoming the myths that hinder a happy marriage", the longer people stay married, the greater their wealth accumulation. This could be that married folks behave more responsibly when it comes to money because they have more responsibilities. By pooling money, time, and labor, married people create more opportunities to build wealth.

Even in the short term, staying together makes sense. Lawyers, guardians, and courtroom proceedings are very expensive. A relatively 'easy' divorce can cost over $10,000. Some couples are making the decision to stay together for the short term, only to find that many of their problems start to work out over the long term.

This is also good news because new research on happiness and divorce states that two-thirds of the spouses who stayed with their marriage instead of divorcing were happy five years later. Of those spouses who did leave the marriage, only half were happy after five years, according to "Why Marry".

It may also be that infidelity, a leading cause of divorce, is more difficult in times of recession. Losing a job along with hard-earned savings, can give a wandering spouse new things to think about. The extra time and money necessary for wining and dining are both in short supply as one worries about paying the mortgage and utility bills.

Whatever the reasons, intact families are at the core of a healthy society. Maybe this can start a trend.

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