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As unemployment increases, divorce decreases

A recent NPR article offers some interesting statistics about how unemployment, divorce and domestic violence are related.

Obviously, it’s a tough economic climate for many people. The unemployment rate has been high, and historically that affects the divorce rate. But it’s not for the reason people may think.

One might assume that the divorce rate goes up, because unemployment leads to more marital strife. While that last part may be true, the tough economy actually tends to cause the divorce rate to go down. The reason: people simply can’t afford to get divorced.

Families in Colorado and all over the country have felt the effect of the economic downturn. Experts say that there is a precedent for the declining divorce rate if you take a look at history. For example, during the Great Depression, the divorce rate declined, but it went back up after the economy began to recover.

Another effect of high unemployment is an increased risk of domestic violence. One study looked at women who went to emergency rooms for both accidental and intentional injuries. Researchers found that the women who were injured intentionally were more likely to come from a household that had experienced unemployment.

So, does this mean that when the economy recovers, the divorce rate will go up and the risk of domestic violence will decrease? If history is any indication, then yes, it’s possible. But with the economy’s slow recovery, it may be a while until we see any sort of change.

Source: NPR, “The marriage economy: ‘I couldn’t afford to get divorced,’” Shankar Vedantam, Dec. 20, 2011

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