Women who marry less educated men no longer have a higher risk of divorce, a new study has concluded.
Researchers from the University of Madison-Wisconsin examined data from heterosexual marriages that took place in the United States between 1950 and 2004. In marriages formed during the earlier decades of the research period, husbands were significantly more likely to have reached a higher educational level than their wives. But when the wife was more highly educated than her husband, the marriage was more likely to end in divorce. Researchers suggested that some men may have felt threatened when the woman was more educated, or that participants in such marriages were simply unconventional by nature and therefore more likely to divorce.
By the early 2000s, women had overtaken men has the spouse likely to be the most educated: this was the case in just under 30 per cent of the marriages which took place during that period, compared to the 20 per cent of marriages in which the man was more educated. However, by this point, marriages featuring a more highly educated wife were no more likely than others to end in divorce. In addition, the majority of marriages, which featured partners of an equal educational background, were less likely than others to end in divorce.
The researchers claim this indicates that modern marriages are less influence by traditional gender expectations. Lead researcher Christine R Schwarz said:
“These trends are consistent with a shift away from a breadwinner-homemaker model of marriage toward a more egalitarian model of marriage in which women’s status is less threatening to men’s gender identity.”
Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, added:
“We are seeing on a great many fronts a greater comfort among men with women who are their equals or perhaps even know more than they do.”
The study, entitled The Reversal of the Gender Gap in Education and Trends in Martial Dissolution,was published in the August 2014 edition of the American Sociological Review.