Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 133–151 | Cite as

Individual and Social Costs of Divorce in Utah

  • David G. Schramm


This preliminary report provides an overview of the economic consequences of divorce for couples experiencing divorce in Utah. The economic impact on the divorcing individuals, the surrounding communities in which they live, and the state and federal governments were assessed. The data collected in Utah reveals that the federal government absorbs the most substantial costs, including a host of expenditures related to welfare assistance and medical costs. The 9,735 divorces in Utah during 2001 cost the state and federal government nearly $300 million in direct and indirect costs. Extrapolation from these estimates reveals that divorce and its direct and indirect economic consequences cost the United States $33.3 billion annually. Implications for social policy and strengthening marriages are provided.


divorce economic costs government marital dissolution marriage 


  1. Allen J. C., Vogt R., Cordes S., (2001). Charitable contributions in rural Nebraska: A culture of giving. Center for Applied Rural Innovation Research Report, 1–4Google Scholar
  2. Amato P. R., (1996). Explaining the intergenerational transmission of divorceJournal of Marriage and the Family, 58: 628–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amato P. R., Booth A., (1996). A prospective study of divorce and parent-child relationshipsJournal of Marriage and the Family 58: 356–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amato P. R., Booth A., (1997). A generation at risk: Growing up in an era of family upheaval Harvard University Press Cambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  5. American Association of Fundraising Counsel Trust for Philanthropy. (2002). Charitable giving reaches $212 billion. Retrieved September 13, 2002, from Scholar
  6. American Bankruptcy Institute. (2002). U.S. bankruptcy filing statistics. Retrieved December 16, 2002, from Scholar
  7. Becker G. S., (1973). A theory of marriage: Part IJournal of Political Economy81: 813–846CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Becker G. S., (1974). A theory of marriage: Part IIJournal of Political Economy82: S11–S26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Becker G. S., (1991). A treatise on the family: Enlarged edition Harvard University Press Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  10. Becker G. S., Landes E. M., Michael R. T., (1977). An economic analysis of marital instabilityJournal of Political Economy85: 1141–1187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bianchi S. M., Subaiya L., Kahn J., (1999). The gender gap in the economic well-being of nonresident fathers and custodial mothersDemography, 36: 195–203PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Biele K., (1998). Utah’s unique take on how to strengthen marriagesThe Christian Science Monitor90: 3Google Scholar
  13. Booth A., Amato P., (1992). Divorce, residential change, and stressJournal of Divorce and Remarriage18: 205–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bryant K. W., (1990). The economic organization of the household Cambridge University Press Cambridge, NYGoogle Scholar
  15. Carroll J. S., Doherty W. J., (2003). Evaluating the effectiveness of premarital prevention programs: A meta-analytic review of outcome researchFamily Relations52: 105–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cherlin A. J., Kirenan K. E., Chase-Lansdale P. L., (1995). Parental divorce in childhood and demographic outcomes in young adulthoodDemography32: 299–316PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chi P. S. K., Laquatra J., (1998). Profiles of housing cost burden in the United States Journal of Family and Economic Issues19: 175–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Coffield C. D., (2002). The political economy of restricting access to education and trainingJournal of Family and Economic Issues23: 261–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cook C. C., Crull S. R., Fletcher C. N., Hinnant-Bernard T., Peterson J., (2002). Meeting family housing needs: Experiences of rural women in the midst of welfare reform Journal of Family and Economic Issues23: 285–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Criddle M. N., Allgood S. M., Piercy K. W., (2003). The relationship between mandatory divorce education and level of post-divorce parental conflictJournal of Divorce and Remarriage39: 99–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Divorce Education for Parents Program (n.d.). Divorce education for parents. Retrieved April 7, 2003, from Scholar
  22. Dugas, C. (1997, June 10). Bankruptcy Stigma Lessens. USA Today, p. B1Google Scholar
  23. Fagan P., Rector R., (2000). The effects of divorce on America (Heritage Foundation Backgrounder: Executive Summary. No. 1373) Domestic Policy Studies Department Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  24. Feng D., Giarrusso R., Bengtson V. L., Frye N., (1999). Intergenerational transmission of marital quality and marital instabilityJournal of Marriage and the Family61: 451–463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Forthofer M. S., Markman H. J., Cox M., Stanley S., Kessler R. C., (1996). Associations between marital distress and work loss in a national sampleJournal of Marriage and the Family58: 597–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Furstenberg F. F., Teitler J. O., (1994). Reconsidering the effects of marital disruption: What happens to children of divorce in early adulthood? Journal of Family Issues15: 173–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gottman J. M., (1994). Why marriages succeed or fail Simon & Schuster New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Halford K. W., Markman H. J., Kline G. H., Stanley S. M., (2003). Best practice in couple relationship educationJournal of Marital and Family Therapy29: 385–406PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hoffman S. D., Duncan G. J., (1988). What are the economic consequences of divorce? Demography25: 641–645PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hoge, W. L., III. (1998). Controlling legal costs in a divorce action. Retrieved April 7, 2003, from Scholar
  31. Keith, V. M., & Finlay, B. (1988). The impact of parental divorce on children’s educational attainment, marital timing, and likelihood of divorce. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 50, 797–809Google Scholar
  32. Kreider R. M., Fields J. M., (2002). Number, timing and duration of marriages and divorces: 1996. (Current Population Reports, P70–80) US Census BureauWashington DCGoogle Scholar
  33. Laing S. O., Ogden P., O’Hara J. P., Oscarson-Wilde L. C., (2002). Financial and statistical summary of the child nutrition programs: 1999–2001 [Brochure]Utah State Office of Education UtahGoogle Scholar
  34. Larson D. B., Larson S. S., & Swyers J. P., (1995). The costly consequences of divorce: Assessing the clinical, economic, and public health impact of marital disruption in the United States. A research based seminar National Institute for Healthcare Research Rockville, MarylandGoogle Scholar
  35. McKeever M., Wolfinger N. H., (2001). Reexamining the economic costs of marital disruption for womenSocial Science Quarterly82: 202–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McLanahan S. S., Sandefur G., (1994). Growing up with a single-parent Harvard University Press Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  37. National Center for Health Statistics. (2002). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unpublished data from National Vital Statistics Reports, 50(14). Retrieved January 9, 2003, from Google Scholar
  38. National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association. (2001). LIHEAP—Regular and emergency program grants FY 2001. Retrieved April 11, 2003, from Scholar
  39. Nock, S. L., (1999). Costs of Divorce. Unpublished raw data, University of Virginia.Popenoe, D., & Whitehead, B. D. (2002). The personal and social costs of divorce. In J. Wall, D. Browning, W. J. Doherty, & S. Post (Eds.), Marriage, health, and the professions: If marriage is good for you, what does this mean for law, medicine, ministry, therapy, and business? (pp. 33–46). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing CompanyGoogle Scholar
  40. Ross C. E., Mirowsky J., (1999). Parental divorce, life-course disruption, and adult depressionJournal of Marriage and the Family61: 1034–1045CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. (1998). To have and to hold: Strategies to strengthen marriage and relationships. Canberra; Parliament of the Commonwealth of AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  42. State of Utah Fiscal Focus. (2001). An annual report on state government to citizens of Utah for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2001. Retrieved January 10, 2003, from Scholar
  43. Sullivan T. A., Warren E., Westbrook J. L., (1989). As we forgive our debtors: Bankruptcy and consumer credit in America Oxford University Press New YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Sullivan T. A., Warren E., Westbrook J. L., (2000). The fragile middle class: Americans in debt Yale University Press New HavenGoogle Scholar
  45. Taylor, M. J., Barusch, A., & Vogel-Ferguson, M. B., (2002). The dynamics of leaving welfare: A study of long-term welfare recipients in Utah. University of Utah, Social Research InstituteGoogle Scholar
  46. The Children’s Defense Fund.(2000). 2000 children in the states The Children’s Defense Fund Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  47. The Urban Institute (2001, Spring). IRS statistics of income bulletin. Retrieved January 9, 2003, from Scholar
  48. U.S. Census Bureau., (1999).Population profile of the United States: 1999 U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  49. U.S. Census Bureau., (2000). Annual demographic survey. (Current Population Survey, March) U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  50. U.S. Census Bureau., (2001). Statistical abstract of the United States: 2001 U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  51. U.S. Department of Justice., (1991). Justice expenditure and employment in the U.S. 1988Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  52. Utah Department of Community and Economic Development. (2002). Home energy assistance target (HEAT) program. Retrieved April 7, 2003, from Scholar
  53. Utah Department of Workforce Services. (1998). Cost of divorce and single parenthood to the public sector: State of Utah, FY’98. Unpublished Raw DataGoogle Scholar
  54. Utah Department of Workforce Services. (2000). Annual report of the department of workforce services. Retrieved April 2, 2003, from Scholar
  55. Utah Home Energy Assistance Target Program. (n.d.). The Utah Home Energy Assistance Target Program. Retrieved April 20, 2002, from Scholar
  56. Utah State Courts. (n.d.). Filing/Record fees. Retrieved April 7, 2003, from, K. (2000). 30 bn cost of families falling apart. Daily Express. Retrieved April 21, 2002, from Scholar
  57. Wallerstein J. S., Kelly J. B., (1990). Surviving the breakup: How children and parents cope with divorce Basic Books New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • David G. Schramm
    • 1
  1. 1.Auburn UniversityAuburnUSA

Personalised recommendations