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Wives with Higher Education do not have an Increased Risk of Divorce

Update Date: Jul 24, 2014 04:01 PM EDT

For years, researchers have reported that when wives had a higher education level than their husbands, their risk of divorce increased. However, according to a new study, researchers are reporting that this trend no longer exists.

"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 reported by the press release. "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."

For this study, the researchers examined heterosexual marriages that took place in the United States from 1950 to 2009. The team noted that the rate of women who had a higher education than their husbands increased from about 35 percent in the early 1950s to more than 60 percent from 2005 to 2009. The researchers found that in women who were married in the 1990s or after, having higher education levels did not increase their 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's Health Disparities and Public Policy Program at Northwestern University. "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."

She concluded, "Overall, our results speak against fears that women's growing educational advantage over men has had negative effects on marital stability. Further, the findings provide an important counterpoint to claims that progress toward gender equality in heterosexual relationships has stalled."

The study, "The Reversal of the Gender Gap in Education and Trends in Martial Dissolution," was published in the journal, American Sociological Review.

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