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Division of Labour Related to Risk of Divorce

According to a recent study from the US, financial factors such as a wife’s ability to support herself are not necessarily predictive of divorce. Instead, it is couples’ division of labour that is associated with the risk of divorce.

The study, from Harvard University, compared couples married in 1974 or earlier with couples married in 1975. It found that in both the old and new cohorts, financial factors did not play a role in divorce. However, while the division of labour did affect marital outcomes in both cohorts, there was some variation in terms of what division of labour was better for marriage stability. 

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

Regarding financial factors, by finding that couples’ overall resources and wives’ economic prospects following divorce did not determine whether marriages lasted, researchers say that their study dispels the theory that attributes the spike in divorce rates to women’s increased financial independence.

“The fact that divorce rates rose during the second half of the 20th century at the same time when women were moving into the labour force has prompted some speculation that marital stability has declined because women no longer ‘need’ to be married for financial security,” Killewald said. “For some, this implies that women’s entry into the work force has come at the expense of stable marriages. My results do not suggest any trade off of that kind.”

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