Taking a look back – way back – at causes of divorce

Sometimes researchers go back a decade or three to look at divorce rates and to look for trends. An economist at Clemson University was even more ambitious. He took a look back at divorces and marital disruptions between 1860 and 1948.

He refers to the dissolution of a marriage as a “marital disruption” because people often did not have the means to officially divorce. In fact, from 1910 to 1930, he says, nearly half of all marital disruptions were never officially recorded in court.

The researcher noticed several patterns in the huge span of time. One is age gap. If the groom is substantially older than the bride or vice versa, that seemed to have an effect on the disruption rate. However, people’s age when they first got married did not seem to matter.

Another finding: the economic climate affects marital disruption. The study found that in good economic times, more people marry, and more marriages are dissolved. The opposite is true in tough economic times.

In addition, urbanization apparently has been a major cause of marital disruption. There was apparently dramatic growth in the number of people living in cities between 1900 and 1920, according to the Huffington Post. This apparently was responsible for nearly a third of the increase of marital disruptions at the time.

The economist concluded that “official” divorce rates do not necessarily the true amount of marital disruption due to tax laws or a tax lawyer. In essence, the number of marriages that have ended over the years may be higher than traditional statistics would have us believe.

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