MPIDR Working Paper

Does divorce risk depend on spouses´ relative income? A register-based study of first marriages in Sweden in 1981–1998

Liu, G., Vikat, A.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2004-010, 24 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (February 2004)
Open Access


The relationship between increasing women’s earnings and rising divorce rates frequently has been explained by the so-called independence effect: If a wife enjoys a higher earning than her husband does, she gains less from marriage. It has also been argued that in a society with egalitarian gender attitudes this effect is less important. In this paper, we test if the independence effect applies to Sweden, a country in which egalitarian gender views dominate and female labor-force participation and divorce rates are high. Our analysis is based on a large register data set and intensity regression models. We found support for the ‘independence effect’: The linear relationship between the share of a wife’s income and the divorce risk is positive. We also found that the higher the total income of the couple, the lower their divorce risk, but this relationship appears to be less strong.
Keywords: Sweden, divorce, family dynamics, income, marriage
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.