Tuesday, June 11, 2002


Divorce rate rose with unemployment in rural Idaho


A story published today by the Idaho Statesman.com reports that Idahós resource-based communities failed to benefit from the economic boom of the 1990s, and the price residents paid was more than just financial.

Not only have there been more divorces, but in families where a parent has lost a job, teen-agers are often forced to look for work themselves to pay their own expenses at school or help with family bills.

In Adams County, the number of divorced adults increased from 8.3 percent to 11.4 percent in the 1990s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Unemployment jumped from 11.7 percent in 1989 to 14.9 percent in 1999, the highest rate in the state.

The trend held all the way to the Canadian border. Of Idaho counties with the 10 highest increases in divorce rates, seven also led the state in the increase in unemployment rates.

Four of those counties Idaho, Shoshone, Adams and Custer also made the top 10 list for slowest growth in family income.

Butte Countýs divorce rate, the highest increase in the state, shot from 7.6 percent to 12.3 percent from 1990 to 2000. At the same time, the county also had the second-slowest growth in average family income.

Vicki Van Horn, a clinical therapist who teaches classes about divorce in the Lewiston area, said it́s not clear that marriage breakups are a direct result of increasing joblessness.

"But I do think when therés economic problems, that́s one of the main things that married couples have trouble with," she said.

The lowest divorce rates in Idaho were in the eastern half of the state, where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dominates the culture.

Madison county, home of Brigham Young University-Idaho, had the lowest divorce rate at 3.4 percent, followed by Franklin, Oneida, Fremont and Jefferson counties. Madison also had the lowest level of unemployment in 1999.

Harriet Shaklee, a Boise-based family development specialist with the University of Idaho. Shaklee said it́s not necessarily religion that has kept more families together in that region.

More likely, she said, the close-knit communities created by Mormon culture create a supportive environment for families in trouble.




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