A new study on employment and divorce reviews how the changing role of men and women in the workforce appears to influence divorce rates.
In some areas, conventional beliefs persist as researchers discovered men are still expected to be the family’s the primary income source.
However, an employed woman is more likely to initiate a divorce than a woman who is not employed, but only when she reports being highly unsatisfied with the marriage.
Generally, researchers discovered, a woman’s employment status has no effect on the likelihood that her husband will opt to leave the marriage.
Liana Sayer, Ph.D., of Ohio State University, designed the research study to show how employment status influences both men’s and women’s decisions to end a marriage.
Researchers analyzed data on over 3,600 couples taken from three waves of the National Survey of Families and Households during the period between 1987 and 2002.
Her findings will be published in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Sociology.
Sayer’s analysis of how employment status influenced marriage and/or divorce included some surprise findings.
For example, a man’s employment status was a significant factor for divorce as researchers discovered male unemployment not only increases the chances that his wife will initiate divorce, but also that he will be the one who opts to leave.
Even men who are relatively happy in their marriages are more likely to leave if they are not employed, the research found. This dramatic influence of unemployment on males, and the increased risk of marital dissolution, suggest an “asymmetric” change in traditional gender roles in marriage, the researchers say.
That men who are not employed, regardless of their marital satisfaction, are more likely to initiate divorce suggests that a marriage in which the man does not work “does not look like what [men] think a marriage is supposed to,” the researchers wrote.
In contrast, women’s employment alone does not encourage divorce initiated by either party. That implies that a woman’s choice to enter the workforce is not a violation of any marriage norms.
Rather, being employed merely provides financial security that enables a woman to leave when all else fails.
“These effects probably emanate from the greater change in women’s than men’s roles,” the researchers wrote. “Women’s employment has increased and is accepted, men’s nonemployment is unacceptable to many, and there is a cultural ambivalence and lack of institutional support for men taking on ‘feminized’ roles such as household work and emotional support.”