Unemployment & Divorce

Aug 8, 2012 by

A study of employment and divorce recently conducted by researchers at the Ohio State University and soon to be published in the American Journal of Sociology, includes some interesting observations for men who are married and unemployed. The researchers tracked information on over 3,500 American married couples taken from the US National Survey of Families and Households to show how employment status affects marriage and divorce,

The results of the Ohio State study suggest that while modern U.S. women no longer face as much social pressure when working outside the home, U.S. men on the other hand still experience a lot of social pressure to maintain their traditional role as the main family provider. As a result, the data points to the fact that married men who become unemployed are more likely to be divorced by their working wives, and surprisingly, those unemployed men also have a much greater chance that their wives will be the one who will initiate divorce, but that the men will usually be the ones who leave the home first.

The Ohio State study theorizes that the effects are probably more the result of changes in women’s roles, than men’s. At the same time the number of women entering the workforce was increasing and gaining increasing social acceptance, unemployment for men was not viewed as socially acceptable. The study also found that unemployed men can experience cultural bias when they stay at home and attempt to perform those tasks once considered a wife’s duties like running the home and raising children.

Conversely, the study found that a woman’s employment status has no real effect on the risk of divorce. Women who were employed were found to be more likely to initiate a divorce than women who were unemployed, but even those men who were happy in their marriages were far more likely to get divorced if they lost their jobs. Men, who were not employed, regardless of their level of marital satisfaction, were more likely to initiate divorce because a marriage in which the man does not work does not fit the traditional male role. Women’s employment was not seen as a violation of any marriage norms and instead simply provided additional financial security if the marriage eventually failed.


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