Study: Women with Higher Education Level No More Likely to Divorce

A new study has found that women with higher education levels than their husbands are not more likely to get divorced.

According to researchers, the results show a downward trend in sticking to traditional gender expectations; instead heading toward a new normal where it is common for women to be more educated than men, not less.

“There has been a lot of fear out there about women’s success and chances of getting and staying married,” says University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Christine Schwartz, who co-authored the study with Northwestern University’s Hongyun Han. “It appears, at least among the recent marriage cohorts, having more education than one’s husband seems to no longer be associated with divorce, and, in fact, sharing equal levels of schooling – those couples are less likely to be divorced than those with a husband who has more education.”

The study, “The Reversal of the Gender Gap in Education and Trends in Martial Dissolution,” looked at marriages between 1950-2004.  The findings support that while marriage between educational equals is most common, marriages where women are more educated are on the rise, accounting for nearly 30% of the marriages studied in the early 2000s, writes Kim Painter for USA Today.

This is a reversal from marriages in the 1950s-1970s, where a consistent trend was seen that such a marriage would more typically end in divorce.  Researchers believe this is because men felt threatened by women’s success.  From the 1990s on, this type of marriage has shown no higher rate of divorce than any other type.

According to the study, 60% of the marriages between 2005-2009 contained a woman who had a higher education level than her husband.  Only 35% of marriages from the 1950s account for this type of marriage, writes Rick Nauert for Psych Central.  Beginning in the 1990s, couples who featured a wife with a higher education level were no longer at a higher risk for divorce.

Educationally equal couples are shown to be the least likely to get divorced.

The study looked at statistics from the US Department of Education, and found that women began to reverse the gender gap in education starting in the 1970s.  By 2010, 57% of bachelor’s degrees handed out were given to women, and 63% of Master’s degrees, writes Tierney Sneed for US News.

According to Veronica Tichenor, associate professor of sociology at State University of New York Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome, “we have a very long way to go.”  Despite the rise of women’s education, men still tend to make more money while women do more of the housework.

“There’s still this sense that men should be providers and women should be caregivers, even if they do other things too,” Tichenor says.

Schwartz says more research is needed on the subject, particularly concerning the divorce rate of women who make more money than their husbands.  The study was controlled for earnings.

Also, the sample size was too small to break the results down by race.

The study is being published in the August issue of the American Sociological Review.