Pandemic sent divorce and marriage rates plummeting last year

On Behalf of | Feb 11, 2021 | Divorce

The Covid-19 pandemic upended much of American life over the past year. A new study suggests that in 2019, many people put off getting a divorce and many put off tying the knot, too. Both the divorce rate and marriage rate plummeted last year, according to a study by Bowling Green State University’s Center for Family and Demographic Research.

The research includes an analysis of divorce and marriage data released monthly by five states (note: Maryland is not among the five). The data contradicts predictions that the stresses of the pandemic and lockdowns would cause the divorce rate to soar.

Sharp drops

Of the five states analyzed – Florida, Arizona, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Oregon – the Sunshine State is the largest. Both divorce and marriage rates dropped sharply there: divorces were down 28 percent and the marriage rate dropped 33 percent.

If the trends in Florida and the other four states are indicative of the U.S. as a whole, the U.S. had about 340,000 fewer marriages and nearly 200,000 fewer divorces than expected, according to the Bowling Green study.

A news source stated that the steep drop-off in divorces does not necessarily mean couples that were contemplating divorce before the pandemic suddenly became satisfied with their marriages during lockdown.

Uncertainties in the pandemic

Wendy Manning, director of the Center for Family and Demographic Research said couples facing pandemic-related economic uncertainty or health issues might “feel stuck and they could be delaying divorce until life feels more normal.”

It should be noted that both divorce and marriage rates have been dropping for years, reflecting a cultural shift in attitude about the institution of marriage. People wait longer to get married these days, with many couples skipping matrimony entirely.

The U.S. divorce rate in 2019 was down to 15.5 per 1,000 married women – about one third lower than its high point of 22.6 in 1980.