Husband’s employment status affects divorce chances

Divorce|July 28th 2016

Husbands who do not have a full-time job are more likely to face divorce, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Harvard University analysed data from a 46-year period which featured more than 6,300 married couples in the United States.

Sociology professor Alexandra Killewald was the lead author of the study. She found that over the last four decades, husbands who were not employed full time had a 3.3 per cent chance of divorce in any given year. By contrast, the likelihood of a marriage ending when the man had a full-time job was only 2.5 per cent.

This means married couples which include an underemployed husband are a third more likely to divorce in any given year. A wife’s employment status did not affect the chances of a couple splitting up the researchers found.

Killewald said one reason for this finding could be that women “have more freedom in how they ‘do’ marriage”. They can stay at home, work part time or have a full time career. Men, on the other hand, “face higher risk of divorce when they do not fulfil the stereotypical breadwinner role, by being employed full-time”.

The researchers looked at how other factors affected the likelihood of divorce, such as the division of housework. They found that couples who married before 1975 were more likely to separate if the chores were divided evenly than they would be if the wife did most of the work around the house. This changed after 1975, when the division of housework stopped being a significant predictor of divorce, but the reason for the shift was unclear.

The study was published in academic journal the American Sociological Review.

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