Divorce rates are climbing, and according to a new study, it could be because couples can finally afford to pull the plug on their marriage thanks to the rebounding economy.
University of Maryland sociologist Philip N. Cohen wrote a paper examining the effects of the economy on the U.S. divorce rate, which will be published in the journal Population Research and Policy Review.
According to Cohen's research, divorce rates declined after the economy took a hit in 2007, which some scholars later hailed as a "silver lining" to the recession, espousing that couples became stronger in a time of crisis.
But Cohen says the drop off may have occurred because couples simply could not afford a costly divorce, not because they had stronger marriages. Based on his analysis of divorce statistics from 2008 to 2011, he estimates that 150,000 divorces that would have happened between those years did not happen -- a 4 percent decline.
According to Cohen, the rate dropped from 20.9 divorces per 1000 married women in 2008 to 19.5 divorces in 2009, but began to rebound in 2010 when the rate hit 19.8. Cohen suggests that as the economy improved, so did the divorce rates.
He explains, "History shows that fluctuations in divorce rates resulting from changing economic conditions may reflect the timing of divorce more than the odds of divorce."
"This is exactly what happened in the 1930s," Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin told the Los Angeles Times when asked about the study. "The divorce rate dropped during the Great Depression not because people were happier with their marriages, but because they couldn't afford to get divorced."