Looking to the future, Stevenson and Wolfers wonder what new forces will emerge to shape marriage and divorce decisions.
They point to the dramatic rise in the use of Internet dating services as perhaps the next big factor on the horizon.
Early in their analysis, Stevenson and Wolfers consider two basic trends in modern marriage and divorce.
First, there is the often-cited fact that the marriage rate today is "the lowest in recorded history." But less discussed, they note, is the fact that the divorce rate today -- 3.6 divorces per one thousand couples per year -- is at its lowest level since 1970.
They note that by removing an unplanned pregnancy from the equation, the birth control pill has allowed women to be more selective about whom they will marry and when they will marry.
That word always irks me—I don’t trust it somehow,” confesses the Bordered on the north and south by petite one-level houses dating back some 500 years, and to the east by a 16th-century Catholic church set on a precipice above the ocean, the Quadrado is the social and spiritual heart of Trancoso.12944) in which authors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers find that it's time to reassess our views of "the American family" given the relatively new and still evolving conditions that now determine whether people marry, stay single, or break-up.These forces include the aforementioned rise of the birth control pill; higher incomes for women and greater access to education; and new household labor-saving technologies that make it more likely a marriage today will involve people with "similar incomes and interests" as opposed to individuals with clearly defined and distinctly different domestic and wage earning roles.In the mid-1950s, for example, the median age of men getting married was 23. Also, people over 65 are just as likely to be married today as people between 16 and 65.But while many trends can be documented easily, Stevenson and Wolfers find that figuring out how they affect marriage rates and family composition is a trickier task. Not surprisingly, their statistics show that today, members of the opposite sex are increasingly likely to be "sharing living quarters." And, cohabitation is more and more the preferred "stepping stone to marriage." Stevenson and Wolfers report that in the early 2000s, 59 percent of married couples had lived together before tying the knot.