Millennials, younger women are making US divorce rate drop dramatically

File photo (Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images for Stellar)

A new study suggests the image of unattached, baby-free existence often attributed to Millennials might be a prerequisite to martial longevity. People under the age of 45 are driving down the U.S. divorce rate by not following their elder’s path. 

Contrary to baby boomers, who often married young, divorced and remarried, new data shows younger couples – Generation X and especially millennials – are going about things differently. Education and stability has gained priority as younger people are being more selective with who they commit to. As a result, the U.S. divorce rate dropped 18 percent from 2008 to 2016, according to Philip Cohen, sociology professor at the University of Maryland. 

“Marriage has become more selective, and more stable, even as attitudes toward divorce are becoming more permissive, and cohabitation has grown less stable,” Cohen writes.

But why such a significant change?

“The overall drop has been driven entirely by younger women,” according to Cohen, who noted divorce rates were higher among women in the past. The study points out that newly married women are now “more likely to be in their first marriages, more likely to have BA degrees or higher education, less likely to be under age 25, and less likely to have own children in the household."

During his research, Cohen compared the number of divorces to married women to measure the divorce rate. When controlling for other factors, such as age or more education, the decline is less steep at 8 percent, but the “pattern is the same.”

“The predictors of divorce are as expected, with increased age, marital duration, fewer marriages, foreign-born status, more education, and White or Hispanic identify all being associated with lower odds of divorce,” Cohen writes.

Since 1990, divorce rates for older people continued to increase while they leveled out for those under age 45, according to the study. Cohen says less people are getting married and -- because of pre-marriage life -- the ones that do are less likely to get divorced. And because married couples are older and more educated, the study predicts divorce rates will continue fall. 

“Marriage is more and more an achievement of status, rather than something people do regardless of how they’re doing,” Cohen told Bloomberg.

The study has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. According to USA Today, it has been submitted for presentation at the 2019 Population Association of America meeting, which is an annual conference for sociologists to present research.