Economic determinants of divorce among dual-earner couples: Jews in Israel
European Journal of Population, 28:2, 177–203 (2012)
The second half of the 20th century saw tremendous changes in the economics of the household, as women entered the labor force in growing numbers and the share of dual-earner couples increased. These changes challenge the available theories which explain divorce by economic factors, as they are mostly molded in the homemaker-breadwinner model. In this study, we investigate the validity of two main groups of theories: one which asserts that women’s work has a destabilizing effect on marriage, and assumes asymmetry between the spouses; and another which states that women’s employment has a stabilizing effect, and assumes that relations between spouses are symmetric. By employing a large-scale longitudinal register-based data for the Jewish population in Israel, we find asymmetry in the effect of the spouses' economic characteristics on marital instability, which suggests that theories that assert asymmetry and power relations between the spouses better explain transition to divorce among this group. In line with theories of income pooling, higher shared salaries are found to increase marital stability. Nonetheless, our results demonstrate that the basic assumption of symmetry between the spouses in these theories does not hold. Although employment stability for both spouses appears to reduce divorce risk, only the husband’s salary is shown to negatively affect the odds of divorce and only the wife’s working hours and sector of employment affect marriage instability. Moreover, couples in which the wife earns as much as or more than the husband are found to have the highest divorce risk.
Keywords: Israel, divorce