Marquette University News Release

New study shows recession’s impact on U.S. divorce rates

November 12, 2012

Financial strains caused by economic crisis dampened divorces

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette University study shows that fewer American couples got divorced during the Great Recession. Dr. Abdur Chowdhury, chair and professor of economics in Marquette’s College of Business Administration, has found that divorce rates in the United States actually decreased starting in early spring of 2008 with the deepening of the economic crisis; a trend that Chowdhury says has started to reverse.

The first-of-its-kind statistical study, titled “‘Til Recession Do Us Part: Booms, Busts, and Divorce in the United States,” will be published in the journal Applied Economics Letters in early 2013. In it, Chowdhury used a statistical model and data for 45 states and found that from 1978-2009 the higher the level of disposable income, the higher the incidence of divorce. The data show that after rising from 16.4 per 1,000 married women in 2005 to 17.5 per 1,000 married women in 2007, divorce rates in the U.S. fell to 16.9 per 1,000 married women in 2008.

Chowdhury argues that during the Great Recession, few employment opportunities and reductions in the value of marital assets – particularly homes – had forced couples to remain together. In other words, he says, when an economy is in crisis and people’s incomes are low, the cost of divorce will prevent a couple from splitting regardless of the quality of their marriage.

“While we heard some anecdotal evidence of this during the recession, this study shows statistically how economic crises impact marriage and family, as well as glimpses into why,” Chowdhury explains.

The study further demonstrates that, as the economy started to move into a slow and moderate recovery beginning in mid-2009, the pent-up demand for divorce was released and the rates increased. “When a couple decides to postpone divorce due to a recession, it does not usually mean their desire to ultimately split is reduced,” Chowdhury adds. “For some couples, recessions actually stoke demand for divorce, even as they make it more difficult to achieve.”

A complete copy of the study is available online. To interview Chowdhury, please contact Christopher Stolarski, senior communication specialist, at (414) 288-1988 or


About Christopher Stolarski

Christopher Stolarski

Chris is a senior communication strategist in the Office of Marketing and Communication. Contact Chris at (414) 288-1988 or View all posts by .