Recession and Divorce in the United States, 2008-2011

Popul Res Policy Rev. 2014 Oct;33(5):615-628. doi: 10.1007/s11113-014-9323-z.


Recession may increase divorce through a stress mechanism, or reduce divorce by exacerbating cost barriers or strengthening family bonds. After establishing an individual-level model predicting U.S. women's divorce, the paper tests period effects, and whether unemployment and foreclosures are associated with the odds of divorce using the 2008-2011 American Community Survey. Results show a downward spike in the divorce rate after 2008, almost recovering to the expected level by 2011, which suggests a negative recession effect. On the other hand, state foreclosure rates are positively associated with the odds of divorce with individual controls, although this effect is not significant when state fixed effects are introduced. State unemployment rates show no effect on odds of divorce. Future research will have to determine why national divorce odds fell during the recession while state-level economic indicators were not strongly associated with divorce. Exploratory analysis which shows unemployment decreasing divorce odds for those with college degrees, while foreclosures have the opposite effect, provides one possible avenue for such research.