Is the Divorce Rate Really Declining?
by Janeen Watkins
A recent article published by the Associated Press pointed out that
rates of divorce are at their lowest point since 1970, but that it
might be simply that there are fewer marriages per capita than in
previous years. Unfortunately, after reading the opinions of the
many experts they quoted I came away with more questions than
answers. So I decided to get the opinion of someone I know that has
his hand on the pulse of the general public in this regard,
entrepreneur John Logan, CEO of SafeGuard Guaranty Corporation,
which he is positioning to be the first company in the world to
offer marriage insurance sometime later this year.
JW: You’ve seen the article I mentioned. Is it true? Could we have
really come to our senses? Or are we cohabitating more and
disguising the statistics?
JL: I did read it and unfortunately I tend to agree that the numbers
are misleading. Looking back at all the research we’ve done over the
last 5 years it’s easy to get the wrong idea depending on what
numbers you look at. I look at everything from a company perspective
for obvious reasons, and there is a lot more grey than true black
JW: What do you mean you look at everything from a company
perspective? How is that point of view different from mine or the
JL: Well I probably look at these statistics a lot closer than most
simply because of the industry I’m in. From my point of view,
everything related to marriage and divorce is looked at by how
things might impact our bottom line. For instance, a true decline in
divorce rates would probably bode well for SafeGuard because we want
people to stay married. Unfortunately the researchers on this
particular piece failed to take into consideration that several US
states stopped submitting divorce rates to the National Bureau of
Vital Statistics in the mid 1990’s, including California. Whose
population by the way…largest in the US…tops NY and FL combined. And
since CA has historically had one of the highest divorce rates in
the US, even if they went down some as well, the rates that article
reports may be just a wee bit off.
More importantly, the general public really doesn’t care a whole lot
about statistics until they start being effected by them. When I
grew up, few people I knew even knew what a pre-nupt was let alone
considered signing one, but more and more first time marrieds are
taking that precaution because they’ve seen first hand the disaster
that divorce can turn into.
JW: Should the general public care more?
JL: Heck yeah. Whether people know it or not, failed marriages cost
them money every day.
JW: How so? How could my neighbor’s divorce cost me money?
JL: Oh my gosh. I’m going to take a wild guess and say you don’t do
this just for fun, so unless you’ve got some stash of cash
somewhere, you’re like most people whose biggest investment is their
home. That said, most people don’t know that second only to health
problems, divorce is biggest reason for bankruptcy in the US.
Picture this. You’re neighbors go through a nasty divorce and the
house becomes a bone of contention. One or the other moves out and
stops contributing to the mortgage payment. How long do you think it
would be before that house next door goes on the auction block and
sells for a huge discount? What would that do to your property
value? Think about if that happened more than once in your
neighborhood. That’s just the tip of the iceberg
JW: I see your point, but what do you mean it’s “just the tip of the
JL: That’s tangible evidence people can see and easily understand
when it happens, but the vast majority of the cost of failed
marriages is money that drains from our bank accounts in lots of
different ways that people don’t see and even some experts can’t get
a real grip on.
JW: Like what?
JL: Like the fact that, aside from just bankruptcy, divorce is the
number one reason for poverty among newly single mothers worldwide.
And one in five women that go onto welfare due to a divorce are
still on welfare after five years. Who pays for that? We all do.
People who divorce are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, are
higher credit risks and miss more time at work. Divorce costs US
businesses billions in lost productivity every year. Where does that
increased cost come from? Not a business’s bottom line, I’ll tell
you that. And children of divorced parents, on the whole, do worse
in school, are less likely to attend college and more likely to
abuse drugs, alcohol and commit crimes. Given those statistics,
where would you rather live, in an area where everyone is married or
where every other family is divorced?
JW: Ouch! In that article, Department
of Health and Human Services' special assistant for marriage
Coffin said that he thought that better-educated,
wealthier couples have better odds of success in marriage. Do you
agree with that?
JL: I’d say while Mr. Coffin’s
rose-colored point of view is a nice thought, the demographics of
divorce sadly prove that education and/or wealth have little
significance in determining whose marriage will succeed and whose
will fail. Take Larry King for example. Definitely smart. Certainly
wealthy from most people’s viewpoint. Divorced seven times. Is he
just a fluke? Probably only in the number of times he’s repeated the
process, but he’s certainly not alone in being unable to maintain a
healthy marriage despite his cognitive skills and net worth.
JW: So what is the solution from your point of view?
JL: I’m not sure I subscribe to the idea of a “solution”, however, I
do agree that we can certainly help the pendulum swing the other
way. I noted in the original AP piece that a hometown pundit, Lee
Rosen, (Rosen Family Law firm) is quoted as saying his business
(divorce) is booming. However, he also points out that from his
perspective people are becoming more contemplative about
relationships. I’m assuming that he means that people are taking
more time to think about the consequence of divorce, but that
doesn’t make the divorce rate decline, it simply makes it more
civil. And civil or not, divorce is still extraordinarily expensive
and many times ruinously so.
Most research will validate that many people who cohabitate rather
than marry, currently do so out of a fear of severe negative
financial consequence should they split. Even with pre and post
nuptial agreements for the rich folks, few will argue that many
couples live beyond their means and divorce would drastically change
their lifestyle, let alone have a dramatic impact on any kids.
Knowing that fact about divorce being the number one reason for
bankruptcy and poverty among single mothers worldwide says a lot
about how unprepared most people are for that kind of reversal of
fortune. Take away that fear of financial ruin and give them
substantial monetary incentive to stay married and we might see not
only an increase in marriages, but truly fewer divorces and a lot
less kids living under the poverty level.
Sure there will always be some doom and gloom proponents that will
argue that some couples will stay married just for the money and
then divorce afterward but guess what? Study after study shows that
couples that stay together during marital problems have a much
higher propensity for working through their problems and then
staying married. So regardless of the reason, it makes sense to
encourage couples to know more about what they’re getting into…way
before they marry…through relationship education, and then provide
as much incentive and counseling as we can to help them maintain a
healthy and successful marriage, but also to create a financial
safety net for those unfortunate enough to become a statistic of
Marriage is still considered to be one of the building blocks of
civilized society. We…and by “we” I mean the general public and
entrepreneurs in particular, need to do all we can to keep that
block a cornerstone and a strong foundation for what’s built on top.
JW: What can someone do right now to increase the likelihood of a
JL: There are literally hundreds of marriage initiatives of all
sorts and sizes out there in probably every state. I’ll tell you a
good place to start is Diane Sollee’s website SmartMarriages.com (www.smartmarriages.com).
Diane is the founder of the Coalition
for Marriage, Family and Couples Education in DC which has a weekly
bulletin that includes all sorts of great info for couples to
strengthen and revitalize their marriage and they sponsor an annual
conference, which, if I’m not mistaken is coming up sometime next
month. I’m sure there is information about it on their website. They
also have a link to a very comprehensive directory of programs on
the website as well.
About the author: Janeen
Watkins is a freelance writer and licensed insurance agent in North
Carolina. Janeen can be contacted at
About John Logan: John
Logan is CEO of SafeGuard Guaranty Corporation, a Nevis based
insurance holding company with US Operations HQ in North Carolina.
Mr. Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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