Center for Family and Demographic Research
Antecedents and Consequences of Middle and Later Life Divorce
Although the overall U.S. divorce rate has plateaued, the rate of divorce among individuals over age 50 has doubled since 1990. More than 1 in 4 people who divorced in 2009 were over age 50. With the aging of the population, the numbers of middle-aged and older adults that experience divorce are expected to climb even if the rate does not increase further. Surprisingly, neither the antecedents nor consequences of divorce during middle and later life (hereafter later life) are known. This project will use national, longitudinal data from the 1992-2008 Health and Retirement Study to examine the predictors of later life divorce as well as the consequences for individual health and well-being. Specifically, the current investigation aims to answer three questions. Who are later life divorceds, and how do they compare to older marrieds and widoweds? What factors predict later life divorce? What are the short- and long-term consequences of later life divorce? The potential impact of this research is enhanced by attention to the pathway to divorce (i.e., from a long-term first marriage versus a short-term remarriage), cohort variation, and gender differences. By documenting the patterns of later life divorce as well as the antecedents and consequences, this project will establish the groundwork necessary to motivate a large-scale investigation of union transitions and their consequences for a new generation of aging adults.