BGSU research highlights surge in older divorces and other unexpected trends


MIAMI, Fla.— The Council on Contemporary Families released a three-part online symposium Oct. 8 on recent trends in divorce and family instability. The first two papers reveal that divorce rates vary immensely by education when people are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, but that these differences evaporate as people enter their 50s and 60s. The third paper explores the impact of the recent recession and partial recovery on divorce and marriage rates.

In their paper “Gray Divorce: A Growing Risk Regardless of Class or Education,” Bowling Green State University researchers Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin note that college educated Americans have dramatically lower divorce rates than their less-educated counterparts – but only up to a certain age.

Among couples aged 25-49, the divorce rate for college graduates is about 50 percent lower than the rate for those with a high school diploma. However, the protective effects of education do not seem to last once the children have left home.  

Regardless of educational attainment, the divorce rate for couples aged 50 and older has doubled since 1990, and it has more than doubled for married individuals aged 65 and older. An older college graduate, even one in a first marriage, faces essentially the same risk of divorce as the older high school graduate. And, Brown and Lin point out, more than 55 percent of gray divorces involve couples who were married for more than 20 years.

About CCF

The Council on Contemporary Families, based at the University of Miami, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of family researchers and practitioners that seeks to further a national understanding of how America’s families are changing and what is known about the strengths and weaknesses of different family forms and various family interventions.