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How a Coming Recession Could Increase Divorce Rates – In The Future

How a Coming Recession Could Increase Divorce Rates – In The Future

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A cost of living crisis and economic recession may seem like it would put enough strain on a marriage to break it up. 

However, various studies have suggested divorce rates may actually decline during a period of recession. examined divorce rates in the UK and US from 2005 to 2011 and found that the percentage of couples getting a divorce (per 1,000 people) actually dropped slightly during the most recent major recession of 2007-2008. 

In the UK, it fell from 2.3% in 2007 to 2% in 2009; and in the US, it fell from 3.6% to 3.5% between 2007 and 2009.

Why would divorce rates fall during a recession? 

These could be a few possible reasons:

  • The loss of a job or fall in home value may make the expense of a divorce a bigger factor;
  • Additional costs following a divorce including housing, legal fees, childcare and reduced economies of scale may even make it impossible;
  • Even if families’ jobs and homes are not under threat, changes in the job and housing markets may shift their decision making;
  • Hard economic times may draw couples closer together and spur them to work through their conflicts.

Does the effect last? 

However, also found that divorce rates increased in the aftermath of the financial crisis – rising to 2.1% and 3.6% in the UK and US, respectively, in 2010, and then stayed steady.

And a wider look at divorce rates between 1994 and 2014 shows the rise is actually out of the norm, since the figures had been trending downwards already when the recession hit. 

Does the end of a recession mean more divorces?

The UK economy moved out of a recession in the last quarter of 2009; and 2010, as shown above, saw more divorces. 

A report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) at the time pointed out that between 2003 and 2009 there was a general downward trend in the number of divorces, but in 2010 they rose by 4.9%.

The ONS said at the time: “One theory suggests recession could contribute to a rise in partnership break-ups because of increased financial strain.”

“Recent trends could be consistent with the theory that recession is associated with an increased risk of divorce, but with a delayed impact.”

Difficult decision 

Jonathan Merry, CEO of, commented:

“Getting divorced is never easy, and nearly always comes with complexities and choices to make. In that sense, it’s not surprising that some of those who can – which is certainly not all couples – may defer the decision to get a divorce until there is less instability and uncertainty in wider society. Some will feel like they need to wait until they can actually afford a divorce, or will do this unknowingly once the recession has ended, when they can better imagine their prospects on the other side. When it comes to a potential recession this year – which more and more analysts are discussing as a possibility – it will be interesting to see if there is a similar effect. Countries are being battered by a cost of living crisis, with energy prices particularly painful, and average house prices having soared to record highs. Rental prices are also spiking. However, job markets remain tight, and in fact there are a record number of vacancies available in the UK. So it’s worth noting there are a mix of complex factors at play,”  

Merry concludes.
Yasmin Purnell
Yasmin Purnell
Yasmin Purnell is a Content Writer and Editor for Yasmin has a wealth of experience writing across a range of topics within the personal finance, student, and business niche. Yasmin joined the team with the one main mission to provide accessible financial, career and business information and advice for all.