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Recession has hurt, helped marriages

A new survey by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia has found that the recession has both stressed and strengthened marriages.
A new survey by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia has found that the recession has both stressed and strengthened marriages.
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A new survey by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia has found that the recession has both stressed and strengthened marriages. The study, released Monday for the beginning of National Marriage Week, relied on data from nearly 1,200 married Americans from ages 18 to 45.

The study's two most positive findings are that "many couples report that the recession has deepened their commitment to marriage," and that "among those who were considering a divorce prior to the recession, a large minority of couples say the recession cause them to postpone or put aside divorce," according to W. Bradford Wilcox, author of the report, director of the National Marriage Project and a sociology professor in U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences.

The study, which relies on data from the National Marriage Project's Survey of Marital Generosity, is the first to look at the impacts of the "Great Recession" on marriage in the United States, according to Wilcox, who recently spoke at BYU about the importance of cohesive, biological families.

Among those surveyed, 29 percent responded that the recession had brought financial stress to their marriage. (Twenty-four percent were ambivalent and 47 percent disagreed.) Among those who indicated greater financial stress, only 26 percent claimed to have a happy marriage.

Yet 29 percent of total respondents agreed that the recession had deepened their commitment to marriage, while 58 percent neither disagreed nor agreed and 13 percent disagreed.

Regarding divorce, five percent of respondents said they were considering it before the recession, yet 38 percent of that group said the recession changed their minds.

"Though the survey cannot estimate the number of marriages that dissolved as a result of the recession, it appears that some, at least, have been saved for now," according to the study. "Moreover, the results of this survey are consistent with data from the 2010 State of Our Unions report, which indicated that divorce rates have fallen since the Great Recession began."

The Great Recession has also hit unequally, falling hardest on those with less education, the study points out. The survey found that 57 percent of college-educated respondents reported zero financial stressors, while only 42 percent of those without college degrees could report the same stability.

Religion may be another way to stave off some stress, with researchers finding that of couples who attended religious services several times a month with their spouse, only 25 percent reported recession-caused marital stress, compared to 31 percent of their non-church attending counterparts.

sisraelsen@desnews.com