I made an exciting discovery today.
No, it wasn’t a forgotten $20 note in my back pocket. And no, I didn’t finally master the make-at-home Adriano Zumbo’s salted caramel macarons. In fact, Bill recently banned me from baking for a while. It only ever ends with me in tears and Bill having to choke down flat crumbling macaron shells just to cheer me up.
Now, back to my exciting discovery.
It was about divorce rates in Australia. And to be more specific: that the divorce rate in Australia is dropping.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, between 2002 and 2012, the crude divorce rate dropped 19% from 2.7 to 2.2 divorces per 1000 residents. This was during a time when the crude marriage rate stayed the same at 5.4 marriages per 1000 residents. In summary, the same number of people are getting married but fewer are getting divorced.
Almost one-fifth of people who would have divorced in 2002, are today choosing to stay married. We all know about the emotional and financial mess caused by divorces. We all know someone who has been divorced and it ain’t pretty. We’ve seen reported for years that divorce rates are escalating out of control. But in the last 10 years there has been a noticeable change.
However, it’s not opinions to divorce that’s affecting the rates. It’s marriage itself. What we are seeing is a generational shift in marriage expectations.
Let me explain.
To those born in the 1920-1940s (and earlier), marriage was pretty much inevitable. Society expected that you would marry young and stay with that person for the rest of your life. In fact, the number of registered marriages peaked in 1942 with 12 in every 1000 residents being married that year.
To those born in the 1950s-1970s, marriage was also pretty much inevitable. Society expected that you would marry young, but divorce became more widely accepted. The big shift occured from 1975 when the Family Law Act was introduced, allowing couples to divorce if they were separated for at least 1 year.
Now here’s where it gets exciting.
To those born in the 1980s and later, marriage is no longer the inevitable pathway for someone wanting to move out of home. Society no longer expects you to marry young. Couples live for many years in defacto relationships, getting to know each other before deciding if marriage is really for them. People wait until they are older to tie the knot. And because of that, more people stay married.
Here’s the thing. I’m sure you can think of a married couple from the 1920-1940s who probably weren’t meant to be together but stayed together because that’s what society expected. Grumpy old Beryl and Frank up the road who hate each other’s guts? And I bet you can also think of a divorced couple from the 1950-1070s who married young because that’s what their parents wanted them to do, only to find out a few years later that it really wasn’t a good match.
Then, think of someone from the 1980s and later. Were they in a serious relationship in their late teens but decided not to break it off because it wasn’t working? If that person grew up in an earlier time I bet they would have been married. And most likely they would now be either unhappy or divorced.
So, where I can’t guarantee that I’ll ever master a salted caramel macaron, my bet is that divorce rates will continue to decline.
And I’m sure Bill is thrilled there’s many years of flat crumbly macarons to come.