Home » News » Parenting » Highly Educated Wives, No Longer at Increased Risk of Divorce
Highly Educated Wives, No Longer at Increased Risk of Divorce

Highly Educated Wives, No Longer at Increased Risk of Divorce

For decades, sociologists have known that when a wife possessed a higher degree of educational obtainment than that her husband, her risk of divorce was higher than average.

Now, a new study finds this is no longer the case.

“We also found that couples in which both individuals have equal levels of education are now less likely to divorce than those in which husbands have more education than their wives,” said Christine R. Schwartz, lead author of the study and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“These trends are consistent with a shift away from a breadwinner-homemaker model of marriage toward a more egalitarian model of marriage in which women’s status is less threatening to men’s gender identity.”

The study, “The Reversal of the Gender Gap in Education and Trends in Martial Dissolution,” reviews heterosexual U.S. marriages formed from 1950-2009.

The paper has been published in the American Sociological Review.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, women’s college completion rates began to exceed men’s, and their educational advantage has continued to grow since then, showing no signs of slowing.

According to the study, among couples who married between 2005 and 2009, more than 60 percent of those consisting of individuals with different levels of education featured a wife who was more educated than her husband — an increase from about 35 percent in the early 1950s.

Among couples who married in the 1990s or later, a wife’s educational advantage over her husband was no longer associated with an increased risk of divorce.

“Rather than doggedly adhering to norms that wives should have lower status than their husbands, men and women are increasingly forming relationships in which women have the educational advantage — so much so that it is now more common for wives to have more education than their husbands than the reverse pattern,” said Schwartz, who co-authored the study with Hongyun Han, a research data analyst in the Feinberg School of Medicine.

“The relationship between one’s educational attainment, marriage formation, and risk of divorce appears to suggest that couples are adapting to the demographic reality that women have more education than men.”

Regarding the finding that marriages between educational equals are more stable than those in which the husband has more education, Schwartz said perhaps this should not be surprising.

“Young people today strongly believe in egalitarian marriage — even if they don’t always follow it in practice,” she said.

Schwartz and Han found that couples married between 2000 and 2004 in which both individuals had the same level of education were about one-third less likely to divorce than those in which husbands had more education than their wives.

By way of comparison, couples married in the 1950s in which both individuals had the same educational attainment were just as likely to divorce as couples in which husbands had more education.

“Overall, our results speak against fears that women’s growing educational advantage over men has had negative effects on marital stability,” Schwartz said.

“Further, the findings provide an important counterpoint to claims that progress toward gender equality in heterosexual relationships has stalled.”

Source: American Sociological Association

Woman graduate photo by shutterstock.

Highly Educated Wives, No Longer at Increased Risk of Divorce

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Highly Educated Wives, No Longer at Increased Risk of Divorce. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 25 Jul 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.