(CNN) Even as divorce rates for the general population have stabilized over the past several decades, they are on the rise among baby boomers. Divorce rates among couples over 50 have doubled in the last 20 years, according to a study by Bowling Green State University. In 1990, fewer than one in 10 people who divorced were 50 or older. In 2009, that figure was one in four.
Using data from the federal government’s 2009 American Community Survey, the study also looked at the demographics of divorce and found that rates for those over 50 were highest among black couples and lowest among white couples. Hispanics fell in the middle. Older adults who divorced also tended to be less educated than those who remained married.
The authors identified several factors that could explain the rising rates, from longer life spans to the changing marital biographies of many baby boomers. They found the divorce rate for those who were in their second or third marriage was 2.5 times higher than for those in first marriages.
“Increasingly, these are baby boomers. They were the first generation to come of age when we saw the rapid acceleration in premarital cohabitation and divorce rates in the 1970s and the early 1980s,” said co-author Susan L. Brown.
She also pointed to boomers’ changing ideas about marriage.
“We have high expectations for what constitutes a good marriage today and we’re looking for self-fulfillment and individual happiness in our relationships,” Brown said. “When you are 60, 65 you retire, (and say) ‘Well, I can live another 20, 25 years. Do I want to spend my life with that person? Is she or he making me happy?’ And if not, well, divorce is a viable alternative,”