Recession and Divorce in the United States: Economic Conditions and the Odds of Divorce, 2007-2009

Philip N. Cohen, University of Maryland

The economic recession that began in 2007 prompted speculation over its effects on divorce rates in the U.S. Opposing hypotheses suggest either the recession increases divorce through a stress mechanism; or it reduces divorce by increasing its economic costs or strengthening family bonds. The American Community Survey now offers a large-scale, repeated national sample survey with size large enough to test state-level divorce patterns – and timing suitable for examining potential effects of changing economic conditions. After establishing an individual-level model predicting women’s divorce, I test whether unemployment, home prices and home foreclosures are associated with the odds of divorce. Results show a robust decline in divorce from 2008 to 2009. However, higher state unemployment is associated with increased odds of divorce. Interactions between state and individual effects suggest fruitful avenues for further research.

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Presented in Session 5: The Impact of Economic Recession on Family Behavior