Environmental Impacts of Divorce


Eunice Yu; Jianguo "Jack" Liu

Journal or Book Title: PNAS

Volume/Issue: 104

Page Number(s): 20629-20634

Year Published: 2007


Divorce is increasingly common around the world. Its causes, dynamics, and socioeconomic impacts have been widely studied, but little research has addressed its environmental impacts. We found that average household size (number of people in a household) in divorced households (households with divorced heads) was 27–41% smaller than married households (households with married heads) in 12 countries across the world around the year 2000 (between 1998 and 2002). If divorced households had combined to have the same average household size as married households, there could have been 7.4 million fewer households in these countries. Meanwhile, the number of rooms per person in divorced households was 33–95% greater than in married households. In the United States (U.S.) in 2005, divorced households spent 46% and 56% more on electricity and water per person than married households. Divorced households in the U.S. could have saved more than 38 million rooms, 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, and 627 billion gallons of water in 2005 alone if their resource-use efficiency had been comparable to married households. Furthermore, U.S. households that experienced divorce used 42–61% more resources per person than before their dissolution. Remarriage of divorced household heads increased household size and reduced resource use to levels similar to those of married households. The results suggest that mitigating the impacts of resourceinefficient lifestyles such as divorce helps to achieve global environmental sustainability and saves money for households.

Type of Publication: Journal Article


Paul R. Ehrlich