Divorce and contraception (and abortion) became widely available to U.S. women at roughly the same time back in the 1970s. At first there was a rise in the divorce rate, but over time it is the decline in the marriage rate among women that has been most noticeable. These trends have been put out there for us by the folks at Bowling Green State University's National Center for Marriage and Family Research. Here's what the data look like over time:
You can see the long-term decline in the marriage rate among women, with a slight rise in the past few years. At the same time, the divorce rate went up in the 1970s, but then leveled off and has dipped a bit in the last decade. These are crude rates--not adjusted for age--so they should be interpreted with a bit of caution, but it seems clear that women have been making the decision not to marry (or to delay getting married--we know that is happening), thus reducing the risk of divorce. Note also that the U.S. government stopped gathering marriage and divorce data several years ago, so this information now comes from questions asked on the American Community Survey. You may recall that the Census Bureau talked about dropping those questions, but people like us vehemently objected and so they didn't.
This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.
If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org