Do Tough Economic Times Bring Couples Together or Pull Them Apart?


Over the past four years, family attorneys in Pasadena have seen dozens of couples break up because of money problems, unemployment and housing foreclosure. There's no doubt that the economic downturn of 2007 through 2009 has been tough on marriages, but that's not true of all marriages. Indeed, a new survey says some couples have grown closer during these times of financial insecurity.

The results of the "Survey of Marital Generosity," conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia on behalf of the school's National Marriage project, were released this week with interesting results. The survey interviewed 1,197 married Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. Nearly 30 percent of the participating couples said that they experienced financial stress caused by the recession. Education played a part in economic and marital problems, too; participants without college degrees were prone to more economic hardships and admitted more frequently that they felt they were at high risk of divorce compared to the participants with college degrees. Still, regardless of education status, the report found that the more financial problems people faced, the more likely they were to admit they were at risk for divorce.

Most surprising, however, were the couples who said the recession actually brought them closer together. Roughly a third of the married people surveyed expressed that the economic downturn had pushed them to "deepen their commitment" to their marriage.

University of Virginia sociologist and survey author Bradford Wilcox describes this finding as a "silver lining" of the recession. Also good news, according to Wilcox, is that 38 percent of married individuals who were considering divorce before the recession had postponed breaking up.

"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."