Opinion Brief

Why divorce went 'out of style': 4 theories

Once seen as liberating — or at least socially acceptable — divorce is now as taboo as gas-guzzling SUVs for some Americans

Has divorce gone "out of style"? Yes... at least for a certain segment of the population, according to a report in The New York Times. According to a 2010 study, just 11 percent of college-educated Americans divorce in the first 10 years of marriage, compared to 37 percent of the general population. And other studies note a substantial decrease in the likelihood of divorce for educated couples since the 1970s. Once seen as a liberating, politically liberal choice, divorce has apparently fallen out of favor with the organic-food-eating, Prius-driving crowd common to Brooklyn and Berkeley. Why? Here, four theories:

1. Divorce is seen as a failure to the achievement-obsessed
"For a certain segment of a new generation of highly driven parents, marriage and children aren't just fulfilling relationships, they're personal achievements," says Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. For these people, a "marital crisis can seem as massive a social failure as forgetting your Food Co-Op obligation," or not getting your kid into the right private school.

2. Marriage is becoming more optional
For the cohort that's experienced the most drastic decline in divorce, it's worth noting that for them, marriage is a choice, not an obligation, says Irin Cameron at Jezebel. These people are getting married later in life, and they're doing so because they've chosen from amongst a number of acceptable options — from remaining single to having a same-sex partner to raising a child outside of marriage. With not marrying a viable option, divorce is no longer seen as liberating.

3. Men have become better husbands
"It could be that among college-educated couples, the men are behaving better and the wives aren't as interested in getting out," says Andrew Hacker, a Queens College professor, as quoted by The New York Times. "Guys are doing more cooking, and they're not bad at it!"

4. Adults with divorced parents have learned their lesson
It's as if a certain segment of the upper-middle class population "reflected on their parents' sloppy divorces and said, 'Not me,'" says Pamela Paul in The New York Times. The children of the divorce generation have grown up, and they're "viscerally aware of how divorce feels to a 7-year-old." Maybe, but "the anecdotal evidence here is at odds with statistics," says Sierra Black at Babble. Stats show that children of divorce are actually more likely to divorce themselves.

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