Home > Personal Finance > The Biggest Factor in a Divorce? The Husband’s Job Status

Comments 0 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


Since the mid-1970s, it’s been easier for women to leave failing marriages. Not only did they begin to make strides in their careers, the social stigmas of leaving a marriage simply changed with the times.

But contrary to common knowledge, those aren’t the only things driving their actions. According to a new study published in the American Sociological Review, a big factor is whether the husband is gainly employed.

In analyzing 46 years of data on more than 6,300 married couples in the U.S., Harvard sociology professor Alexandra Killewald found an uptick in divorce in the mid-1970s. She also found housework wasn’t much of an issue after 1975, perhaps because women were entering the workforce in greater numbers.

In scrutinizing each partner’s employment and willingness to take on household chores, Killewald — who also used a larger set of census data to determine the wives’ economic dependence on their marriages —pieced together the financial stakes of leaving the union for both partners. Her conclusion: Having a job didn’t preclude a wife from filing for a divorce; in fact, her economic independence didn’t correlate with a higher risk of divorce at all.

What mattered more, especially in recent years, was the husband’s employment status. Though this barely affected the odds of divorce before 1975, in the decades since it’s become a factor that’s hard to ignore, the study suggests. Women began to expect more from their careers, while the expectations remained the same for men. That is, even as women pursued working lives, men were still considered the family breadwinner.

In terms of stats, Killewald found that husbands who aren’t employed full time have a 3.3% chance of getting divorced in a given year, compared with 2.5% for husbands who are working full time.

The Burden of Unemployment

Killewald’s study didn’t go into the financial impacts of living with an unemployed spouse, but it’s not hard to imagine the strain it can put on a marriage. When a steady paycheck is nonexistent, money can become tight, which makes it harder to pay bills on time and deal with everyday household expenses. Late payments can also undermine a good credit score, which in turn can make it harder to apply for family necessities such as auto insurance or mortgage.

You can learn more about how your behaviors affect your credit by viewing two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.

Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team