The Baby Boomers have chosen to go it alone, study says:
SOUTH SALT LAKE — Deirdre Hill laughs when you ask her if she ever wishes to remarry. “No!” she says.
And she’s not alone. At 55 and long divorced; Hill is one in a growing demographic. Overall, America’s divorce rate, long one of the highest in the world, has been flattening out — except among middle-aged and older Americans. For two decades, the divorce rate among baby boomers has grown by more than 50 percent, according to recent research from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
It’s happening at a time when the number of adults who never marry is also increasing, for a possible compounded impact. Nearly one-third of those age 46 to 64 are single: either divorced, separated or never married. Back in 1970, that number was less than 13 percent. Research also shows fewer older divorcees choose to remarry than in the past.
Those numbers all raise questions about what it might mean to the safety net that helps to financially protect older Americans, say experts, including the study’s authors, Bowling Green sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin.
Hill’s own observations bear out what the two researchers have dubbed the “gray divorce revolution”: “Most of the women I know — my demographic — who have a career, most have been divorced,” says Hill, who friends call Dee Dee. “None have opted to remarry. People I know who are married, they’ve been married long term.”
The trajectory has been quite clear. About 12 percent of unmarried adults 50 to 64 lived together without marriage in 2010, compared to 7 percent a decade before. From 1980, when 22 percent of middle-aged adults were unmarried, the number climbed to 34 percent in 2009. In 1980, among unmarried adults of that age, 45 percent were divorced, 33 percent widowed and 22 percent who never married. In 2009, the breakdown among the unmarried was 58 percent divorced, 32 percent never married and 10 percent widowed. The researchers found that the divorce rate was 2.5 times higher for those who had been married before than for those in first marriages. The rate of divorce dropped the longer someone was married. And the number of individuals who are widowed has shrunk as the number of single boomers and divorcing boomers has grown.
But what the numbers will mean to the future is less clear. For example, more than 600,000 people 50 and older got divorced in 2009, “but little is known about the predictors and consequences of divorces that occur during middle and later life,” Brown and Lin wrote.
By Lois M. Collins, Deseret News