Study: Pandemic drives down divorce and marriage rates

| Feb 18, 2021 | Divorce

The list of activities curtailed in 2020 by the pandemic is a long one. Add two more to the tally: marriages and divorces. According to a new study, thousands upon thousands of Americans put off or canceled weddings last year, and hundreds of thousands more opted not to get a divorce.

The study by Bowling Green State University’s Center for Family and Demographic Research is an analysis of divorce and marriage statistics from five states (California is not included).

The five states — Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire, Missouri and Oregon – all reported marriage and divorce statistics throughout 2020.

Divorce rate predictions were off

In Florida, for instance, divorces plummeted 28 percent from March through September. Many experts had predicted that the isolation of the pandemic’s lockdowns would trigger a surge in divorces. Marriages in the Sunshine State were 33 percent below what researchers had expected based on the marriage rates of previous years.

If the marriage and divorce rate trends in the five states hold across the nation, it means the U.S. had nearly 200,000 fewer divorces than expected, according to the study. There was an even greater drop-off in expected marriages: 340,000.

It should be noted that in 2019, there were about 1 million divorces and 2.2 million marriages in the U.S.

A researcher explains

Wendy Manning, director of the Center for Family and Demographic Research, told Bloomberg that  “divorce can be expensive, and couples may be reluctant while facing economic uncertainty and/or health issues. These folks may feel ‘stuck’ and they could be delaying divorce until life feels more normal.”

Of course, divorce has been in decline in recent years. In 2019, there were 15.5 divorces per 1,000 married women – dramatically lower than the 22.6 divorce rate of 1980.

Because the pandemic is so unpredictable, it seems possible that fewer experts will issue marriage and divorce predictions in 2021.