U.S. Divorces Decline for Second Straight Year

Associated Press

The number of divorces in America has declined for a second consecutive year, following 20 years of increases, government statistics showed Friday.

There were 1,158,000 divorces in the United States in 1983, 12,000 fewer than in 1982, the National Center for Health Statistics said in releasing the most recent complete figures available.

That 1% drop followed a 4% decline between 1981 and 1982, reversing a two-decade trend that had seen the number of divorces in the nation more than triple to an all-time high of 1,213,000 in 1981.

The trend of young people delaying marriage and the recession in the early years of the decade have been cited as contributing factors in the decline in divorces.

However, it may not be a permanent situation, said Jean van der Tak of the Population Reference Bureau, an independent Washington research group studying population.

"I think it's a fairly short-term change, although some people want to interpret it to mean that marriage is getting" more solid, she said.

Provisional estimates indicate that divorces will resume increasing when the final figures are reported for 1984 and 1985, according to updated statistics published in Population Today, the research group's periodical.

Could Not Afford It

The 1981 recession spurred many people to delay going off on their own because they simply could not afford it, Van der Tak said.

"Divorces cost money," she said. "Divorce often is a great reflection of the economic times. I believe the recession was a prime cause for that (the divorce decline) happening in 1983."

With the current improvements in the economy, she said, divorces are again increasing, up to an estimated 1,159,000 in the year ending in September, 1984, and 1,186,000 for the year ended in September, 1985, she said.

The changing composition of society has also been cited as a factor, with the members of the post-World War II "baby boom" generation delaying marriage and divorce in order to pursue education and careers.

The new statistics also showed that geographic variation remains strong in divorce numbers across the country.

The Northeast has the lowest divorce rate at 3.6 per 1,000 people, down from 3.7 in 1982. Next was the Midwest with a rate of 4.6 per 1,000, unchanged.

In the South the rate was 5.6, down from 5.7, while the West had the highest divorce rate at 5.8, down from 6 a year earlier.

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