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Women, Work, Money, Marriage - Study Results Show Differences Between Races (part 2)

In this post, I am looking at the specific results of a study I talked about in my September 14 post. The study, which appears in the October issue of the Journal of Family Issues, looked at the economic roles of women in marriages and the effect that two economic factors in particular -- work and earnings -- have on the stability of a marriage. The data was not examined on a state level, so Illinois results are not available. Still, the national results are interesting, and I invite readers to comment below.

The author found that the results for white women were very different from the results for black women. For example, there was no connection between economic resources and divorce for blacks, while the following was true for whites:

  • White women who consistently earn more than their husbands are 38 percent more likely to divorce than women who make as much as or less than their husbands.
  • White women who increase the number of hours worked during the marriage are 29 percent more likely to divorce.
  • White marriages in which traditional roles are broken (stay-at-home or part-time work) are more likely to end in divorce.
  • White women anticipating divorce seem to increase their participation in the workforce -- which leads to greater income and a destabilized marriage.

Black women are also susceptible to the effect of breaking traditional marriage roles, as supported by the finding that black women who earn the majority of the family income are more likely to divorce. That is the only economic factor that the study found was linked to divorce.

Black women showed no "independence effect," in which unhappily married women find alternatives to marriage when they begin earning their own money and establishing economic independence from their husbands. Black women were no more likely to divorce if they increased the hours they worked. Nor was divorce more or less likely for black women who participate less in the workforce.

The author believes the results for black women reflect some uncomfortable truths about blacks in our economy. Black women have long worked outside of the home, because both incomes were needed to maintain financial stability and a healthy marriage. For a number of reasons --socio-economic factors that were beyond the scope of the study -- black women were found to contribute a greater proportion of total income than white women.

What does this mean to couples considering divorce? Sometimes research is just research, but these findings may give men and women a little more to think about when they discuss their differences and look for solutions or look for alternatives to an acrimonious divorce.

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

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