In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, economic researcher Justin Wolfers says that recent media accounts of how the economy has reduced both marriage and divorce rates is misleading, and that both are pretty much on the same track they have been on the past 30 years.
Noting that marriage and divorce rates have remained “remarkably immune” to the ebb and flow of business cycles, Wolfers said it is misleading to count marriages among people in their 20s and early 30s because the average age of marriage has been increasing since 1970 – it is now 28 for men and 26 for women.
Instead, he says, we need to look at the number of marriage certificates issued to gauge whether or not marriage and divorce rates are decreasing during the recession. For 2009, there were about 2.1 million of them issued in the U.S. – a slight decline since the recession began, but the same rate of decline that has existed for the last three decades.
What has changed most about marriage, says Wolfers, is that it is now based on shared passions instead of economic benefits. Because of easy access to all the perks of modern living – prepared foods, labor-saving technologies and even inexpensive clothing – men and women rely on each other less for the traditional roles of man in the marketplace and woman in the home.