Despite a general belief that divorce rates have fallen over the last 30 years, a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota suggests that the rate has remained steady, while the “risk of divorce” has increased significantly.

The study titled “Breaking Up is Hard to Count” explores divorce rates when adjusted for certain demographic and societal influences. According to study authors Sheela Kennedy and Steven Ruggles, when you account for factors like the declining marriage rates among young people and the increasing number of “gray divorces,” the divorce rate is actually staying steady.

“When we controlled for the age distribution of the married population, the risk of divorce has gone up by 40 percent,” said Ruggles. He also noted that the average age of divorce has increased since more couples are parting ways at an older age.

Why No Change?

Researchers continue to study societal trends in hopes of pinpointing reasons as to why the divorce rate has remained steady. Some believe it is because more young adults are cohabitating before marriage, but Family Law attorney Kelsey Karls says many people are interpreting that statistic incorrectly.

“People often cite the statistic that “couples who cohabitate prior to marriage have a higher divorce rate than couples who do not live together before they are married,’ but this statistic is confusing because it conflates causation and correlation,” said Karls. “Premarital cohabitation itself does not lead to divorce, but rather, couples who are comfortable cohabitating prior to being married also are comfortable filing for divorce if they believe the marriage is not working.”

Karls added that those individuals who don’t believe in cohabitation prior to marriage also tend to have related beliefs about ‘til death do us part.

“Those couples who believe – be it for religious or familial reasons – that they should not cohabitate prior to being married also generally have the same conservative attitude when it comes to divorce.”