When Part-Time Work Leads to Divorce

Is a married couple more likely to file for divorce in Michigan if one of the spouses is a stay-at-home parent or only works part-time instead of full-time? Some researchers argue that the divisions of labor in a household can cause marital strife and, ultimately, can lead to divorce. One such division of labor is a scenario in which the wife works full-time, providing the majority of the household earnings, while the husband works part-time. According to a recent study published in the American Sociological Review, different spousal earnings, especially when the husband works part-time and the wife works full-time, may contribute to higher rates of divorce.

The study addresses the ways in which gendered assumptions about marriage can influence the likelihood of divorce.

Spousal Earnings and Division of Labor in the Marriage

The new study, authored by Alexandra Killewald who is a professor of sociology at Harvard University, sought to address two separate questions:

  • Is stability in a marriage linked to the financial status and economic gains of the marriage, or to the "gendered lens through which the spouses' earnings and employment are interpreted"?

  • Have the factors in marital stability changed over time, or do they look similar to how they appeared in the 1960s and 1970s?

To investigate answers to these questions, Killewald analyzed data on marital stability and divorce from 1968 to 2013. In particular, she looked at the ways in which marital stability patterns might have (or might not have) shifted before and after 1975. The key takeaway from the study is that when the husband lacks a full-time job, there is a higher risk of divorce, while the wife's employment status or share of household duties seems to have an impact. In other words, as the study clarifies, women's roles may be shifting, but the expectation that the man be the primary breadwinner persists.

How Gendered Assumptions and Expectations Might Result in Divorce

The study shows that marriages are not more likely, necessarily, to result in divorce when a wife works part-time while the husband works full-time. Instead, gendered assumptions about the roles that both spouses play in the marriage persist well into the 21st century, and marriages in which a wife works full-time (and is the primary breadwinner) while the husband works part-time are more likely to end in divorce.

Are there other possible reasons for higher divorce rates in these scenarios than gender biases? In other words, could these marriages result in divorce more often for reasons that are not tied to a husband's assumptions about gender roles in the marriage? According to a study conducted by the Marriage Project at the University of Texas, Austin, more men tend to feel stressed and unhappy when they do not have full-time jobs. Of course, these feelings also may be tied to gendered assumptions about roles in society, but the study suggests that marriages, where a husband works part-time, may have more complicated reasons for ending in divorce.

Discuss Your Case with a Michigan Divorce Attorney

Do you have questions about filing for divorce? An experienced Michigan divorce attorney can assist with your case. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins to learn more about the services we provide to clients in Michigan.