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The More We Work, The More We Earn - The More We Divorce (part 1)

New research, published in the October issue of the Journal of Family Issues, shows a link between a wife's income, hours worked and the likelihood of divorce. If happiness has a price (see my September 8, 2010 post), it seems divorce does as well. In this post and the next, I will discuss the results of this study that I believe will be of interest to families in Illinois.

The study is based on interviews conducted with 12,686 men and women over a 25-year period (1979 - 2004). The researcher also conducted an extensive literature review of divorce trends. The idea of this new study was to confirm or refute a handful of disparate theories. The past 30 years, it seems, have seen a lot of research about the causes and predictors of divorce.

One study, for example, investigated the "income effect." The income effect suggests that the chance of divorce is lower as the wife makes more money. The extra income relieves economic stress on the marriage.

Many studies have concluded that a wife's economic contributions to her marriage help to stabilize the marriage. Others have posited the "independence effect," that is, that unhappy women who find employment outside the home become more independent from their spouses and can afford alternatives to marriage. And yet another study concluded that, yes, the wife's income helps, but only as long as she earns less than her husband.

In addition to the effect of the wife's income, the author of the new study hoped to determine if working at all was a factor in the stability of a marriage. Past research in this area has concluded that women working outside of the home tend to be less likely to divorce because the spouses are interdependent. Yet, other studies have concluded the opposite, that "specializing in home production" counters the prevailing social attitude of sharing household responsibilities and is a de-stabilizing force.

The author of this new study has dug a little deeper, weighing the effects of income, labor market participation and race, as well. Statistically, black women are more likely to be divorced after 15 years than white women: 37 percent of black marriages last 15 years or longer, while roughly 53 percent of white marriages survive. As far as work and income are concerned, the results for whites and blacks differed significantly.

In my next post, I will discuss the specific findings of the study, with special emphasis on the difference between the black women and the white women who participated in the study.

Resource: Journal of Family Issues "Wives' Economic Resources and Risk of Divorce" 10/10

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