"But the silver lining is that it seems to have deepened ties to one another and to the marriage" for many couples, said Wilcox.
Still, those who have weathered the recession will little or no financial stress reported happier marriages than those reporting several financial stressors -- 43 percent versus 27 percent.
To assess divorce risk, the researchers measured responses regarding the likelihood of a breakup, on a scale of one to 10. Those who answered 5 or more were deemed to be at high risk. Among the couples who felt the recession strengthened their marriages, about 5 percent are at a high risk for divorce, compared to one-quarter of those who disagreed with that statement, the researchers said. (Today, about 42 percent of first marriages end in divorce, Wilcox noted.)
The survey also suggests that education and religion contribute to a successful marriage. College grads were less likely to say the recession hurt them financially than those without a college degree, and they also had half the risk of divorce (7 percent) compared with those without a college education (14 percent).
Similarly, one-quarter of couples who regularly attend religious services reported recession-related economic stress compared with 31 percent of those without strong religious ties. Religious couples also were more likely (44 percent) than others (35 percent) to report a very happy marriage.
E. Jeffrey Hill, an associate professor of family life at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, said it's common knowledge that money problems disrupt marriages. But "it is how stress is dealt with," not economic woes themselves, that portend divorce, he said.
"Many couples who have financial problems maintain their marriages 'through sickness, and health' because they are committed to the marriage and give it every opportunity to succeed," said Hill.
"There is some unhappiness in all marriages," said Hill. "
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