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Maryland professor studies divorce and the recession

Contradicting other research regarding the recession and its effects on divorce, a sociologist from the University of Maryland has found that high unemployment and high divorce rates do not appear to be related.

The professor's study, entitled "Recession and Divorce in the United States: Economic Conditions and the Odds of Divorce, 2008-2010," analyzed divorce data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The sociologist examined the answers of each respondent, recording whether they became divorced during the previous year. He then analyzed unemployment and foreclosure figures for the respondent's home states, aiming to determine whether the divorce rate and economy of a given state appear to show a connection.

The study does show that divorces in areas plagued by high foreclosures did seem to increase. The Maryland-based researcher found that this was true only among individuals with post-high school educations. The sociologist hypothesized that such individuals are more likely to own homes than individuals with less education, making their personal lives more prone to disruption caused by foreclosure.

The professor wrote that while he did find evidence supporting an association between divorce and the recession, any link should be considered "speculative." Instead of arguing in favor against a connection, he explained that his study "should interject a note of caution into the fast-moving discourse on the effects of the recession, which the news media and public have been eager to consume."

The Maryland professor was hesitant to fully trust the divorce statistics used by his study, evidence that the quality of divorce statistics available to researchers is inconsistent. Since the National Center for Health Statistics terminated the publishing of their extensive divorce data in 1996, it has collected summary statistics from individual states. Experts say this may have led to a drop in those figures' quality. He and others hope that the American Community Survey will provide better statistics than those provided by the NCHS and other government sources.

Source: Pew Research Center, "Divorce and the Great Recession," D'Vera Cohn, May 5, 2012

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