These changes have come together with a large and significant shift in people’s perceptions of the types of family structures that are possible, acceptable and desirable. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the rise of same-sex marriage.
The de-institutionalization of ily models since the middle of the 20th century show that social institutions that have been around for thousands of years can change very rapidly.
Trends in the rate of divorces relative to the size of the population
In the chart here we show the crude divorce rate – the number of divorces per 1,000 people in the country.
When we zoom out and look at the large-scale picture at the global or regional level since the 1970s, we see an overall increase in divorce rates. The UN in its overview of global marriage patterns notes that there is a general upward trend: “at the world level, the proportion of adults aged 35-39 who are divorced or separated has doubled, passing from 2% in the 1970s to 4% in the 2000s.”
But, when we look more closely at the data we can also see that this misses two key insights: there are notable differences between countries; and it fails to capture the pattern of these changes in the period from the 1990s to today.
As we see in the chart, for many countries divorce rates increased markedly between the 1970s and 1990s. In the US, divorce rates more than doubled from 2.2 per 1,000 in 1960 to over 5 per 1,000 in the 1980s. In the UK, Norway and South Korea, divorce rates more than tripled. Since then divorce rates declined in many countries.
In the chart the US stands out as a bit of an outlier, with consistently higher divorce rates than most other countries, but also an earlier ‘peak’. (more…)