Baby Boomer Divorce, will not be undone by the unwashed

Casey Dowd writes about trends among Baby Boomers, mostly from a financial perspective. He should stick to that perspective as evidenced by his recent article

Why So Many Baby Boomers are Getting Divorced

He hints at bias in the very beginning when the only divorce anecdote he chooses to share is one that involves a man sleeping with his secretary. How quaint. As he goes on, he reveals some things that, if verifiable, are potentially contradictory to data shown in Dalrock’s recent post about divorce statistics, Whistling through the graveyard. One of the facts I struggle to accept (but do accept because I do believe statistics that are rigorously derived) is that higher education and socioeconomic status yields lower divorce risk. I openly question that every time I read it, not its veracity, but why is it so? Dalrock likewise offers some insight into the why in his other post ‘Are women done with men after age 55?’

My point in raising that Dalrock article is to add his take on it to what Casey Dowd has to say about it. Mr. Dowd says:

The divorce rate among boomers has jumped recently and that number is only expected to climb. Statistics from the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University show that despite the overall divorce rate in the U.S. dropping over the last 20 years, the divorce rate among people age 50 and over has doubled.

I’m supposing the divorce risk over all is lower on the socioeconomic basis as claimed, but that after age 50, that’s out the window, and how. Does this suggest then that educated middle class couples are more committed to marriage? Or, is it that they develop the so called business of running a middle class family to a point that the time it takes is sufficient distraction to keep the primacy of the relationship between husband and wife in the background? The business of running the family and the idea that the couple may be more responsible with the future prospects for their kids, and how divorce is proven to negatively impact that are both tangentially touched on by Dowd:

What’s going on here? Is it because the kids are grown and have left the nest? Have we grown tired of each other or is it a mid-life crisis?

Kids getting older and leaving the nest is another main driver of the increasing divorce.


Baby boomers tend to be the group that has the economic livelihood and the economic feasibility to get divorced. Whats really interesting is that divorce rates will increase in both good and bad economic times. When there is a lot of money in marriage, divorce is a reasonably easy financial solution because when it comes to dividing the assets, there are enough for both parties. Marriages with not a lot of money tend to be more financially strained which can lead to stress and increase the risk of divorce. The baby boomer generation is hit most by those extremes.

Dowd follows what were decent observations with his flawed wading into the big question of why. He makes an honest observation about communication, but then quotes one of those “statistics” that fits the made up on the spot cliche. He asks:

What are some of the leading causes of boomers divorcing? Is infidelity a big problem?

His response:

The one thing that I hear consistently, regardless of the specific catalyst, is lack of communication–that is by far the universal response. Infidelity is certainly a catalyst and often labeled as a reason; it plays a very large role in the breakdown or end of a marriage. [my emphasis]

Despite the over use of the term communication, in a sense he is correct. His first epic fail comes in not drilling into all the absurd things that are scooped under that umbrella and called grounds for divorce, all the silly definitions and variations of abuse, neglect, verbal, financial, economic, and so on. Sadly I have to disclaim that yes, there are categories in there that on occasion do rise to the level of deserving the label abuse. The vast majority however use abuse as a trump card, a sympathy magnet, and as I am wont to say, a constant source of empathy.

The second fail is when he makes stuff up stating:

Infidelity is used as a catalyst reason for ending a marriage 50-70% of the time.

By failing to expand on the communication theme and show where the divorces come from and WHO FILES THEM, and following this with a bogus claim about infidelity, he slips from being possible an expert in Boomer finances to a man pandering to boomer women. He states he has been married 32 years so its understandable because one way to stay married….the wrong way….is to pander to gynocentric notions.

Sorry dude, that statistic on infidelity is just categorically untrue, empirically proven to be untrue, and irresponsible to have printed. Even if I focus on the word “used” and assume he may have considered mere allegations of infidelity in the numbers, it still leaves the number massively incorrect.

He goes on to try speak to the divorce process. His description of strategies and motives for those strategies are harmless. But he circles back around and feeds what has become in particular an evangelical feminist assertion, that being that the marriage ends before, well, before it actually ends. I do not know if that was his intent, I do know that it is frequently claimed among churchian women that ‘the marriage ended years ago, this is just paperwork’ in what is part of a canned dialog designed to assuage guilt for frivolous divorce. To that I always point out that couples who suddenly reconcile before the business ending of the marriage get right back to their sex life, and it isn’t considered fornication, hence, claims of emotional divorce are just that….claims with a self serving purpose.

He wraps up with something I’ve noted personally as well, that being that its my generation, the boomers, who seem to have been the peak perpetrators in destroying the nuclear American family, and we have done so across the board. We’ve ruined it in secular circles, and ruined it even worse in churchian circles, turning rational expectations on their head.

Generation Y seems to have an interesting sense of renewed excitement about the concept of marriage and the traditional family.


I believe time will show that generation Y will see secular marriage recover (or slow destruction) faster than churchian marriage as we , the church, follow culture but with a time lag. Salt and light….Mmmm Hmmm.

21 thoughts on “Baby Boomer Divorce, will not be undone by the unwashed

  1. One of the facts I struggle to accept (but do accept because I do believe statistics that are rigorously derived) is that higher education and socioeconomic status yields lower divorce risk.

    Check out the Bell Curve quotes and stats I shared in that post again. Your gut is right. The driver of lower divorce rates is IQ. Higher education and SES actually drive up divorce rates when IQ is controlled for.

    As for headlines on divorce over fifty, take that with a grain of salt:

    There is a reason they don’t tell you the actual stats…

  2. By the way, I found the actual stats referenced in the Fox News article you link to. I’ve been looking for this data since I started blogging two years ago. There definately is something there, but I still think they are giving people an innacurate impression of the frequency of late life divorce. I plan on doing a post with this later in the week when I have time (with a H/T to you of course). Here is the data:

    This is the first time I’ve seen anyone but me chart out divorce rates by age like that. Their data is one year off of my 2009 data, but it tracks very closely.

  3. I’m eager to see your treatment of the data if you disagree that the rate increases with age. Forgive me, but I am maybe not following you in your objection. What is it that you are positing? Are you saying there is not a higher risk later in life? Is that too simplistic a question for your assertion? I admit to not taking the time to quietly think the math through so to speak.

    H/T’s and linkages always appreciated, the little tiny dog accepts treat crumbs gladly.

    The Little Dog

  4. My fault for not being clear. The proportional increase they report is accurate, but leaves a misleading impression about overall divorce rates for older couples. Back in 1990 there were something like 2.5 divorces per 1,000 married women aged 65+, now it is 5 per 1,000. So it doubled while divorce rates dropped dramatically for younger age brackets, but we are still only talking about an additional 2.5 divorces per 1,000 women. Compare the 5 per 1,000 over 65 rate and the 11 (ish) per 1,000 55-64 rate with the current rate of roughly 30 divorces per 1,000 married 25-34 year old women and it stops being so breathtaking.

    The news articles make it sound like older couples are divorcing in droves. They simply aren’t, even with the large proportional changes. Something signifigant is happening, and the curve is clearly bending*, but the media blows it up to sell divorce to older women, since “everyone is doing it”.

    *I noted the same bend in the curve for the UK in my final chart in “Are young marriages doomed to divorce” post.

  5. Got it, I understand your thoughts now and where you are heading with them. Good stuff, I agree it needs splainin’ and I see the sneaky selling they may be doing. Whats amazing is the folks doing that are often not clever enough to have conceived such a thing, they come at it backwards, which as a mode of reason is beyond me.

  6. So, as for statistics in articles, I get the Family Life email weekly (if you dont Dalrock you should because its often packed with useful trash) and today this quote jumped out:

    “”Today in the Hospitality State, [Mississippi] for every two couples who marry for the first time three others put their witness to divorce papers. And of those who divorce, 11 of 12 claim “irreconcilable differences” as the reason.”””

    ELEVEN/TWELVE………its worse than I thought, or at least worse in Mississippi than nationally

  7. One more observation. The first sentence you quote from the article is not just wrong, but wrong twice:

    The divorce rate among boomers has jumped recently and that number is only expected to climb.

    For any given cohort of boomers the divorce rate has steadily declined over the last 20 years, as has the divorce rate for boomers as a whole. The group today which is 55-64 and divorcing at a rate of 11 per 1,000 was divorcing at a rate of 26 per 1,000 twenty years ago when tehy were 35-44. He totally misunderstood the data. All cohorts of boomers have seen a marked and continuous decline in divorce rates. Moreover, as they continue to age they will continue to experience this decline. The jump is intra generational, something only a statistician would observe. What boomers experienced and will continue to experience is the exact opposite of what he claims.

  8. I think he may mean to be saying that…let me pick a random example….in 1985 the divorce rate was X among the 55-64 group……in 2010 the divorce rate between 55-64 year old is higher…., different people…..AND different year of looking, rather than following the same group in 1985 and 2010? That would be a valid observation, but the word ‘boomers’ throws it, better he said ‘seniors’ or some indicator of an age bracket at a given time……..maybe?

  9. Shows me I must read slower….I have The Bell Curve and have since it was published in hardback, read it I guess 12 years ago or so (seems it was turn of century-ish). I need to re-crack that book and look at it with my red pill eye.
    I was bluer than blue then.
    (sadder than sad,
    your the only life this empty room has ever had,
    life without you is gonna be
    bluer than blue
    ……SHIT… my head is full of that song)
    Did Freakonomics have anything germane in it, or its follow-up… those too but with blue eyes and awhile back.

  10. It is hard to say what he meant, but the press consistently gets this wrong. No group experienced a jump in divorce in the data he referenced. But this is the whole breathless story. It is all about how everyone is doing it, complete with the stock photo of an older woman fed up with an older man. I should get a job with the press selling divorce (to women). I could write these things in my sleep.

    Put another way, you didn’t misread his story when you received the impression that masses of boomer senior wives were suddenly pulling the divorce ripcord on their loyal husbands. This was the intended message of the piece, even though the stats show something else entirely.

    As you said something real happened, something interesting from a statistical/demographic perspective. But it has nothing to do with the story he wrote, with the story he wanted to write.

  11. I had read it much more recently and I still had to go back and read that section to recall what they had specifically found. I knew IQ was a big issue, but I didn’t recall the details.

    I’ve never read freakonomics, so I don’t know about that one.

  12. I am certain you would devour Freakonomics, and its follow up which I forget the name. They wont take much time to read…I know you are busy, so am I. If the guy who wrote them took on divorce, you will see if you read them, his tendency is to blast the comfy chair of conventional wisdom out from under lazy thinkers, eliminate cliche responses, and prove cold realities, like Bell Curve did controversially on race etc, but across a wide and disparate range of topics.

  13. Its fun to read, and that whole thing about babies and bathwater

    The bent is all over the place in that its not a right or left wing book. The study that was about school choice was about as rugged individualistic and self reliance as they come, AND it was boldly not conventional wisdom.

    That review was not something cautionary I dont think, Im savvy on statistics as an engineer, and didnt read this book the same way I did Bell Curve for example, but it doesnt bill itself as such.

    I wonder what specifically you have issue with?

  14. Pingback: There is no baby boomer (or silent) generation divorce spike at retirement. | Dalrock

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s