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Greatest Risk Factor for Divorce May Be Husband’s Unemployment

A recent study published in the American Sociological Review suggests that marital stability depends less on how much money a couple has, whether a wife works outside the home, or whether the husband helps with housework, and more on whether the husband is employed full time. In “Money, Work, and Marital Stability: Assessing Change in the Gendered Determinants of Divorce,” Harvard sociologist Alexandra Killewald looked at more than 6,000 male-female first marriages that began in the years 1968 to 2013, drawing a dividing line between what she considered early and late marriage cohorts at 1975, when it became more common for women to be in the workforce rather than in the home.

The results seemed to contradict some basic notions about the drivers of divorce. Factors we might expect to influence a couple’s chances of divorce did not carry much weight in the study. These included:

  • How much money the couple made or how much each spouse made relative to the other
  • The financial independence of the wife
  • The percentage of household chores each spouse performed

The study found that women could work outside the home, earn as much as or more than their husbands, be financially able to live on their own, and take less responsibility for housework without substantially influencing the couple’s probability of divorce. However, one factor did seem to significantly increase the prospects of divorce: a husband who is not employed full time.

The study did not investigate reasons for the husband’s unemployment — whether it was voluntary, to care for children, or involuntary, due to a downturn in the economy or personal issues. The study also could not control for various complexities that exist in a marriage. However, it study does seem to reinforce traditional societal expectations for a husband’s role within a marriage while allowing the wife greater latitude to choose different roles.

If you are going through a divorce on Long Island, an experienced lawyer at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia can provide reliable counsel throughout the process. Contact our office to schedule a consultation.