Apparently, baby boomers don’t believe in happily ever after — at least when it comes to marriage.
Since 1990, the divorce rate has doubled for U.S. adults 50 years and older, according to government data. This comes at a time when splitting up has actually become less common for the younger crowd. Though younger couples divorce more, their split rate has either dipped or risen more slowly.
The trend of “gray divorce” is very real. For every 1,000 married persons ages 50 and older, 10 divorced in 2015 — up from five in 1990, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau. And for those ages 65 and older, the divorce rate has tripled in the same time period, up to six people per 1,000 married persons in 2015.
In comparison, the divorce rate for those younger than 50 is about twice as high as it is for adults 50 and older — 21 divorces per 1,000 married persons for adults ages 40 to 49 — yet it has only inched upward from 18 per 1,000 since 1990. And for the 25 to 39 crowd, the divorce rate has dropped from 30 persons per 1,000 married persons in 1990 to 24 in 2015.
Demographers attribute this encouraging decline to several factors. The younger generation is marrying at a later age and those who do marry are more likely to be college-educated. Couples who are college-educated have lower divorce rates.
Boomers, on the other hand, had historically high divorce rates in their younger years, and this may be contributing to today’s high divorce rates because remarriages are less stable than first marriages. For example, divorce rates for adults ages 50 and over in remarriages is double that of those who have only been married once. Of those adults 50 and older who divorced in 2015, 48 percent had been married at least twice.
Though older adults in long-term marriages tend to divorce less, there is still a marked uptick among couples married for more than 30 years. About a third of older adult divorces in the past year involved people who had been married at least 30 years. Twelve percent had been married 40 years or more. These late-in-life splits may have unintended consequences.
“Gray divorcees tend to be less financially secure than married and widowed adults, particularly among women,” writes Renee Stepler, a research analyst focusing on social and demographic trends at Pew Research Center. “And living alone at older ages can be detrimental to one’s financial comfort and, for men, their satisfaction with their social lives.”