Thursday, March 24, 2011

Splitsville is a rural place now: Rural divorce rate has caught up with the urban rate

The gap between rural and urban divorce rates has all but disappeared, 2010 census data show. "Forty years ago, divorced people were more concentrated in cities and suburbs. But geographic distinctions have all but vanished, and now, for the first time, rural Americans are just as likely to be divorced as city dwellers," Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff of The New York Times report.

June Carbone, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, told the Times that college-educated Americans are more likely than high-school graduates to get married and stay married. This is important because census data show one in six rural residents has a college degree compared to one in three in the cities, Tayernise and Gebeloff report.

"Nationally, there were about 121 million married adults and 26 million divorced people in 2009, compared with about 100 million married and 11 million divorced people in 1980," the reporters write.

"It has hit the whitest, most married, most idyllic heart of America — Iowa," said Maria Kefalas, a sociology professor at St. Joseph's University. "The cultural narrative about marriage — you get a job, you marry your sweetheart, you buy a house, you educate your kids — has been torn to shreds. Without that economic foundation, the story cannot support itself." Carbone siad, "A blue-collar guy has less to offer today than he did in 1979," Carbone told the Times, adding that those shifting forces "create a mismatch between expectation and reality,"that result in women becoming frustrated and leaving, because now they can.

In Sioux County, Iowa, the low divorce rate in the 1970s resembled the national rate of the 1910s. The rate is up seven-fold since then, and while the county's rate is still lower than the national average, "its sharp jump illustrates a fundamental change in the patterns of family life," the reporters write. (Read more)

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