Divorce rate rising in rural America

The latest census figures are showing something new in parts of the heartland: divorce.

From the New York Times:

In the 1970s, the divorce rate was so low in this rural northwest Iowa County that it resembled the rest of America in the 1910s. Most of its 28,000 residents were churchgoers, few of its women were in the work force, and divorce was simply not done.

So it is a bitter mark of modernity that even here, divorce has swept in, up nearly sevenfold since 1970, giving the county the unwelcome distinction of being a standout in this category of census data.

Divorce is still less common here than the national average, but its sharp jump illustrates a fundamental change in the patterns of family life.

Forty years ago, divorced people were more concentrated in cities and suburbs. But geographic distinctions have all but vanished, and now, for the first time, rural Americans are just as likely to be divorced as city dwellers, according to an analysis of census data by The New York Times.

“Rural families are going through this incredible transformation,” said Daniel T. Lichter, a sociology professor at Cornell University.

The shifts that started in cities have spread to less populated regions — women going to work, gaining autonomy, and re-arranging the order of traditional families. Values have changed, too, easing the stigma of divorce.

“In the bottom ranks, men have lost ground and women have gained,” said June Carbone, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and co-author of “Red Families v. Blue Families.”

“A blue-collar guy has less to offer today than he did in 1979,” Professor Carbone added. Those shifting forces, she said, “create a mismatch between expectation and reality” that can result in women becoming frustrated and leaving, because now they can.

Read more.

  • deacon marv robertson

    Some years back, the US Department of Justice sought to discover why, especially in depressed socio-economic areas, some young people entered a life of crime and delinquency, and some did not. At the risk of oversimplification, the answer was to be found in “the three F’s” (my shorthand term).
    Quite simply, FAMILY, FAITH and FRIENDS accounted for the difference in behavior in many cases. Those who came from an intact family (married mom and dad), and regularly participated in their religious faith, and whose friends shared the same family/faith values were three times less likely to enter into crime and delinquency than those who lacked all the “three F’s.”
    I could see the validity of this analysis in my 2 1/2 decades as a juvenile division trial judge.

  • Max Lindenman

    Does this mean the homicide rate is falling?

  • romancrusader

    Reason is simple. Our culture does not understand the marriage covenant. They think that if it’s broken that you can always return it type of deal. That’s not how marriage works. Marriages are till death do us part, it doesn’t matter what the other spouse did or did not do. You can’t undo a marriage. I mean, where these divorced people pretending when they were up at the alter?

    A family that prays together stays together. Just look at how many children are born out of wedlock. Not to mention couples cohabitating, thinking they can work on the spiritual part later. You can’t do that.

  • justamouse

    There’s a book out there-secular, that helped me a lot with this -Radical Homemakers. She’s a PhD who writes about –not that women should stay home because that’s where they belong, but *someone* needs to stay home because it will keep the family as a center of *production* and not *consumption*. Someone needs to be home to make sure the family unit stays intact, that the meals are cooked, so the community is stronger.

    I think a lot of time, for women, some church’s main thrust of teaching is stay home and be a sweet and happy Mommy and when you do that, you’ll feel fulfilled because that’s what God wants you to do. For some reason, that never settled well. God gave me a brain, too. I understand why women do eventually leave. They are deeply unfulfilled-and that’s something that needs to be addressed–within the religious community.

    I don’t know. I’m trying to work this out in my head. I think, because the thrust of the idea is production-not only say, homeschooling, but cooking meals, and providing for the unit by making what the family needs more than *buying* what the family needs…that *work at home* changes the direction of the message. It not only acknowledges the importance of being a mom, but as a productive member of the family. I feel fully a helpmeet to my husband when I know I am taking our income and in my production (putting in a garden, sewing, canning-the real traditional stuff!) not only passing on those skills but using the talent that God gave me to live within our means…

    That way we can afford for me to stay home. It’s a slight turn, but it made a huge change in how I felt about what I did. And I think women, in general, need to feel that way, too, and they will come back from college and keep the central unit of the family.

    I could be talking off the top of my head, I don’t know, and I don’t mean to offend in any way. If I have, please forgive me.

  • MhariDubh

    People need to be really careful talking about how “someone needs to stay at home”. I have fought for my mom to understand that my sister and I did not suffer because she worked outside the home. My parents have been married for 40 years. My mom has worked outside the home for most of those 40 years – in fact, she’s been working since she was 17. My sister and I are (relatively :) ) well adjusted, secure in ourselves and have never been to jail.

    Having taught & worked with youth for more than 10 years – just as many of the problem children have come from two-parent families and families where mom stayed at home. Some of the best kids I’ve known have come from single parent households.

    I think we need to blame society for devaluing single people. Many people base their self-worth on being coupled up – so why not rush into having a wedding.


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