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Similar Education Levels Lowers Divorce Risk

Update Date: Jul 28, 2014 03:38 PM EDT

New research shows that traditional gender roles are quickly becoming obsolete. Researchers found that men prefer and are more likely to marry smarter women.

Modern men are considered part of the first that aren't threatened by women who earn just as much or more than them.

"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," researcher Christine Schwartz, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a news 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," Schwartz added.

The latest study found that spouses who got married between 2000 and 2004 in which both individuals had the same level of education were a third less likely to divorce than those in marriages where the men were more educated.

"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 said.

"Young people today strongly believe in egalitarian marriage - even if they don't always follow it in practice," Schwartz explained.

The study revealed that marriages of individuals with equal educational attainment in the 1950s were equally as likely to end in divorce than marriages in which husbands received 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."

The findings are published in the journal American Sociological Review.

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