Good news: Divorce rates are dropping. The better news is why.

How many times have you heard someone say this?

"Pfft. I'm never getting married. It's all a big scam. Did you know 50% of marriages end in divorce?"


Photo via iStock.

Did you believe that stat? It's OK if you did.

Hell, when "Bennifer" announced their divorce in the summer of 2015, even I was pretty sure there was no hope for the rest of us. (They just seemed so rock solid, you know?)

Like most statistics proudly spouted off by cynical happiness-bashers, there is some truth to that 50% divorce statistic. Or at least there was.

The divorce rate is hard to measure precisely, but the data we do have suggests that the oft-cited "50%" stat is no longer true and hasn't been for a long time. In fact, the data actually suggests that the divorce rate has been dropping significantly.

There are many reasons for it, including the fact that fewer people are getting married overall these days. But some of the other reasons for the decline in divorce are pretty inspiring for all the hopeless romantics like me who still long for the fairy tale weddings of our dreams.

These are three main reasons why the divorce rate is dropping: 1) feminism, 2) acceptance, and 3) love.

Also known as three parts of a balanced Upworthy breakfast. (Obviously, the omelette is feminism, the spinach salad is acceptance, and the butter is love.) Photo via iStock.

Feminism: The feminist revolution in the wake of WWII changed things for women, and for marriages.

Data shows that women initiate the majority of divorces, which means a change in divorce-rate is usually reflective of a change in the roles and expectations of women in society.

After the end of World War II, the divorce rate in America hit its highest spike. That's because things were changing for American women in a pretty significant way.

Photo by Bob Aylott/Keystone/Getty Images.

Women had entered the work force to fill roles left behind by the men fighting the war, and they wanted to stay there. They organized and spoke out against a society that treated them as second-class citizens.

The feminist movement of the 1950s and '60s started to crystalize a movement toward equal rights for women. Topics like reproductive rights, domestic violence, equal pay, sexual harassment, and maternity leave all started to enter the national dialogue (and, as we know, all of them were solved immediately and we aren't still having these conversations today, right?).

Photo by William West/AFP/Getty Images.

The role of women permanently shifted in this country as they fought against the idea that their existence was predicated on finding a man to support them. So, they started leaving their unfulfilling marriages behind.

Today, instead of finding someone to marry who can support them and make their dads happy, women are more likely to marry when and if they want to and to spend more time dating or building their own careers before settling down, leading to an increase in marriages of choice, rather than necessity.

Acceptance: Slowly but surely, society came to accept that families come in all different shapes and sizes.

When a sitcom about a divorced, interracially remarried patriarch trying to remain in the life of his daughter and gay son, who himself is raising an adopted Vietnamese daughter with his husband, decided to call itself "Modern Family," it did so for a reason.

In 2016, the American family looks very different from how it looked in 1950.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

The signs of this evolution are everywhere: single parents, interracial couples, same-sex marriages, marriages without kids, and couples that stay together happily without ever getting married at all. These concepts aren't seen as completely bonkers as they used to be.

Where marriages were once about dowries and land deals, or more recently about settling down and baby-making, the modern American family is now more about compatibility and choosing the partnership that's right for you.

"Lets never get married or have kids and just spend our lives visiting various seaports!" Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images.

"The fact that most people live together before marrying means that more ill-fated relationships end in breakups instead of divorce. And the growing acceptance of single-parent families has reduced the number of shotgun marriages, which were never the most stable of unions," Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College told The New York Times.

People today are more likely to get married when and if they want to, not because they think they have to. Turns out that leads to healthier, longer lasting marriages.

Love: All of this is to say that people really super love each other in 2016, in ways that previous generations didn't have the luxury of doing.

The biggest reason for the falling divorce rate is the fact that, today, marriages are more likely to be based on actual love and compatibility than ever before.

“We marry to find our soul mate, rather than a good homemaker or a good earner,” economist Justin Wolfers told the Times.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

If that sounds eyerollingly obvious to you, consider the fact that marrying for love is a pretty darn recent notion.

"For most of history it was inconceivable that people would choose their mates on the basis of something as fragile and irrational as love," writes author Stephanie Coontz in the first chapter of her book, "Marriage, A History."

Today, marrying for love is considered normal. The only other common reasons are for green cards and to finally have someone to start watching "The Wire" with (which is its own kind of love).

Next time someone tells you that half of marriages end in divorce, tell them they're wrong. And they're being a jerk.

Sure, not all marriages end happily ever after, but our society has opened the door for all kinds of stronger, healthier, happier families, and the falling divorce rate is proof of that.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

Whether you want to get married or not, you're part of a more equal, accepting, and loving society. That's pretty awesome.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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