By Sherkiya Wedgeworth

Blog archive

Working wife and higher divorce theory debunked

A new study debunks the belief that a marriage that involves a working, independent wife is more likely to end in divorce.

Divorce rates did increase during the second half of the 20th Century, coinciding with more women entering in the workforce. But working women were not the cause of marital insecurity, according to a new study. The unequal division of labor between spouses is the culprit.

The study, “Money, Work, and Marital Stability: Assessing Change in the Gendered Determinants of Divorce,” uses data on more than 6,300 heterosexual couples who were married in 1974 or earlier, or in 1975 and after to determine the effects of division of labor, overall financial resources, and wives’ economic prospects have on marriage.

“My results suggest that, in general, financial factors do not determine whether couples stay together or separate,” study author Alexandra Killewald, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, said in a release. “Instead, couples’ paid and unpaid work matters for the risk of divorce, even after adjusting for how work is related to financial resources.”

According to the findings, women married before 1975 who did more of the housework in the marriage were less likely to get divorced, but that changed for those married later, where men begin to contribute more to the household labor.

For the latter marriages, a husbands’ full-time employment was an important factor in marital stability, with the risk of divorce higher for men who were not employed full-time.    

“While contemporary wives need not embrace the traditional female homemaker role to stay married, contemporary husbands face higher risk of divorce when they do not fulfill the stereotypical breadwinner role, by being employed full-time,” Killewald said.

The study indicates that men have not been granted similar freedom of changing and expanding gender roles over the centuries.

“Often when scholars or the media talk about work-family policies or work-family balance, they focus mostly on the experiences of women,” she said. “Although much of the responsibility for negotiating that balance falls to women, my results suggest one way that expectations about gender and family roles and responsibilities affect men’s lives, too: men who aren’t able to sustain full-time work face heightened risk of divorce.”

So it looks like keys to sustainable marriage are for the husband to maintain his patriarchal role as the provider, while still helping out with the dishes.

Posted by Sherkiya Wedgeworth on Aug 10, 2016 at 1:25 PM

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above.

2021 Digital Almanac

Stay Connected

Latest Forum Posts

Ask the Expert

Have a question regarding your federal employee benefits or retirement?

Submit a question