Divorce and your job

Family Law|October 25th 2017

Earlier this year US statistician Nathan Yau took a deep dive into data gathered by the ongoing American Community Survey run by the United States Census Bureau. He wanted to discover whether there were any links between a person’s profession and their chances of getting divorced.

Mr Yau examined subjects who had married and least once and noted the percentage who later divorced, cross-referencing this with their particular profession. He found discernible and intriguing differences.

The profession with the lowest risk of divorce in the United States turns out to…actuaries (insurance risk assessors). Their average divorce rate is just 17 per cent: nearly three per cent behind members of the clergy(19.8 per cent), normally noted for their fidelity to family life, and a fair way ahead of even the second entry on the list: ‘physical scientists’, i.e. natural scientists such as physicists and chemists. These have an average divorce rate of 18.9 per cent.

After that the rate starts climbing. You’ll find dentists a few places further down Mr Yau’s chart, with a 22.5 per cent divorce rate, then pharmacists at a slightly higher 22.6 per cent. Vets have a 23.9 per cent rate.

Keep on climbing. We’re nowhere near done yet: some professions have a much higher chance of their marriages ending. By the time you get to ambulance drivers, senior prison officers and nurses, you are approaching an average rate of 50 per cent (the figures are 46.3 per cent, 46.9 per cent, and 47 per cent respectively). But it doesn’t stop there. Flight attendants tiptoe over 50 per cent, and the profession with the highest average divorce rate in the United States is….casino managers, referred to as ‘gaming managers’ in Mr Yau’s list. No less than 52.9 per cent of the latter’s marriages end in divorce.

Yau suggests some connection between divorce and salary. Better paid jobs tend to have lower divorce rates – thus, doctors, scientists, software engineers and similar specialists cluster in the lower reaches of the divorce charts he compiled.

But the statistician believes the true roots lie in the type of person attracted to particular professions. Writing on Flowing Data Yau explains:

“Those with higher salary occupations tend to have lower divorce rates. That seems pretty clear. But as you know, correlation isn’t causation. If someone who is already a physician, quits and takes a job as a bartender or telemarketer, it doesn’t mean their chances of divorce changes. It probably says more about the person than anything else.”

An additional factor could be demographics, he continues. In other words, people from particular social groups are more likely to end up doing certain jobs.

“Similarly, those with certain occupations tend to be from similar demographics, which then factors into how the individuals live their lives.”

Perhaps this is all common sense. After all, even if we don’t give it too much thought, we all sense on some level that the type of job someone does says something meaningful about them. Women in particular tend to judge the marriage potential of boyfriends – at least partly – by the type of work they do, especially those interested in becoming mothers.

And now we have solid statistics to back up this perception.

There probably aren’t as many casino managers over here in the UK for the marriage-minded to worry about. But just what is it that makes them particularly bad at staying hitched? Perhaps a taste for the high-rolling, big money, champagne-and-lobster lifestyle just isn’t all that compatible with a stable married life. Or maybe it’s all those late nights.

Read more about Nathan Yau’s research here. His complete table of divorce rates is also available here.

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