The divorce rate has dropped significantly during the pandemic, according to a recent nationally representative survey of 3,000 Americans. The American Family Survey (AFS), which is sponsored by the Deseret News and Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, found that the global catastrophe has actually strengthened marriages, despite concerns to the contrary early in the pandemic.
In the early months of the pandemic, a number of headlines warned that divorce rates would skyrocket as the quarantine took a toll, and the divorce rate in China reportedly rose as soon as its lockdowns ended in March. Recent evidence appears to point to the opposite, however, as couples report strengthened relationships and rekindled commitment.
The AFS study found that 58% of men and women between the ages of 18 and 55 said the pandemic made them appreciate their spouse more, and 51% said their commitment to their marriages had strengthened. A surprisingly low 8% said the pandemic has weakened their commitment to their spouse.
The percentage of people reporting marriage trouble dropped from 40% in 2019 to only 29% in 2020. The drop may be due, at least in part, to a decrease in marriages. Six percent of unmarried Americans under 55 reported an increase in wedding plans, while 7% reported plans to postpone marriage ceremonies. America’s marriage rate is already at a record low.
As noted by University of Virginia sociology professor Brad Wilcox, harsh times often deepen our resolve and strengthen our priorities, and that could be why the divorce rate during the pandemic is lower than many expected. “Adversity is more likely to lead to growth, strength, joy, and self-improvement rather than the opposite,” he said.
The pandemic has helped many people see how much they rely on their spouse, and it’s deepened their appreciation for contributions made to the household. Wilcox noted that the hopeful end of the pandemic will likely see an early 2021 surge in divorces, as people feel freer to visit courthouses and examine different housing options safely.
Wilcox expects the divorce rate overall to drop, however, matching the decline the U.S. saw after the Great Recession.