by Hilary White

EAST LANSING, Michigan, December 5, 2007 ( – Studies have abounded in the years since the widespread liberalization of divorce laws in western countries of the damage broken marriages do to children and women. Now a new victim of divorce has been identified by researchers: the environment.

Work by researchers at Michigan State University has shown a correlation between divorce and increasing a family’s “carbon footprint”. The study is based on the theory that more people living in single-unit dwellings use less power and resources than people living alone or in smaller households.

The atomization of families results in using more power for transport, light, heat, air conditioning and refrigeration, the big domestic power drains.

The study’s abstract says that in the 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.”

“More households mean more houses,” said Jianguo Liu, professor of fisheries and wildlife ecology and systems modelling at Michigan State. “To build more houses, you need more land, more construction material and more energy.”

A trend in many cities is the proliferation in expanding wealthy areas of massive luxury homes with only one or two regular occupants or a couple with only one or two children. In many cases the owners also have one or more alternate homes in other cities or resort locations.

The study recommends that divorced families remarry or band together in shared dwellings. “Remarriage of divorced household heads increased household size and reduced resource use to levels similar to those of married households.”

Published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study tracks data from 12 countries between 1998 and 2002, all of which showed a steady increase in the divorce rate. They included the U.S., Belarus, Brazil, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece, Kenya, Mexico, Romania, South Africa, and Spain.

“People have been talking about how to protect the environment and combat climate change, but divorce is an overlooked factor that needs to be considered,” Liu said.

Divorce laws were liberalized in the 1970’s in most of the western world in conjunction with the changes in new social mores of the sexual revolution. In the intervening years, the children of divorced families have grown up and displayed the behavioural and psychological after effects, as well as the long-term financial repercussions, of broken homes.

Jenny Tyree, associate marriage analyst for Focus on the Family Action, commented, “The results of this study support the benefits of marriage, not just for families, but for our environment.”

She said, “It makes sense that more households – as a result of family breakdown – would use more resources. We’re pleased to see that God’s design for family is consistent with good environmental stewardship.”

Read the study’s abstract:…;