Study: marriages where husband does not work full-time more likely to end in divorce

Air Force TACPs confirm target locations with their map
Air Force TACPs confirm target locations with their map

This was reported in Family Studies.


In a recent study published this July in American Sociological Review, Harvard sociology professor Alexandra Killewald, Ph.D., analyzed data on 6,309 heterosexual married couples from the 1968 to 2013 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). She looked specifically at the potential effects on marital stability of “spouses’ division of labor, overall financial resources, and wives’ economic prospects following divorce,” comparing couples married before 1975 to those married in 1975 or later (through 2011).

[…]Killewald found that for couples married in 1975 or later, marriages in which the husband was not employed full-time were one-third more likely to divorce. Specifically, a husband who was not employed full-time experienced a “3.3 percent predicted probability of divorce the following year, compared to 2.5 percent if he is employed full-time.”

[…]Killewald is certainly not the first to find an association between men’s employment and marital stability. A study conducted by three economists and published in 2015 found that “In couples where the wife earns more than the husband, the wife spends more time on household chores; moreover, those couples are less satisfied with their marriage and are more likely to divorce.”

And an earlier study by Liana C. Sayer, Paula England, Paul Allison and Nicole Kangas found that when a husband is “nonemployed” (defined as not working at all), both the husband and the wife are more likely to end a marriage. In an email interview with IFS, one of the study’s co-authors, New York University sociology professor Paula England, explained her findings.

“The innovation of our study was to look separately at what predicts a divorce wanted more by the woman versus a divorce wanted more by the man,” England wrote. “We found that a nonemployed man predicts either the woman leaving the man or the man leaving the woman.”

She continued, “Killewald’s data just show her if they got divorced, not who left. We found that women’s employment doesn’t make men leave more, and it only makes women leave more when they are unhappy in the marriage.”

People sometimes ask me why I have all these rules and best practices when it comes to relationships and marriage plans. You know: men must have STEM degrees, no sex before marriage, men have to approach women by speaking to fathers first, etc. Well, why have all these rules? Why not just do what feels good? Why not just do what my peers will approve of?

The answer is this: don’t get your ideas about relationships and marriage from your feelings, your peers or the culture. Think for yourself.

I didn’t get my idea of how courting and marriage works from a culture that dismisses all of the ancient wisdom about love and marriage in favor of the trends of a culture dominated by ideologies that emphasize pleasure over wisdom. The right way to learn about romance, love, marriage and parenting is to go the classics, and then to the scientific studies. We have to learn how the world really works, and abide by the best practices that we find in the classics and in the peer-reviewed publications. And we have to be willing to say no to feelings and friends and even family, when the classics and the peer-reviewed literature say something different. Peer-reviewed studies matter: we cannot escape them by feelings or by peer approval or by cultural trends.

The big problem with this Peter Pan, Disney princess view of relationships popular with women (Christian and non-Christian) is children. Children deserve to have parents who are wise and self-controlled, willing to do things the right way. You can’t break all the rules and then expect things to somehow magically work out because you feel that they will somehow. The rules are there for a reason. If a man cannot demonstrate that he is serious about the husband role by showing you a resume with 5 years of full-time private sector experience in a STEM or vocational job, and $50,000 net worth, then he’s not fit for the role of husband. Women need to rule out every man who has not demonstrated his ability as a provider and saver, then choose from the ones who are left by evaluating for other criteria. Feelings of attraction based on “hot” appearance, non-judgmentalism, liberal politics and lack of leadership, (which often goes along with lack of planning), are not signs that a man is qualified for husband and father roles. Women today have things exactly backwards when choosing men. If your goal is marriage, choose a man who has demonstrated ability to do marriage tasks – like working full time and not wasting all his earnings on fun and thrills.

13 thoughts on “Study: marriages where husband does not work full-time more likely to end in divorce”

  1. I heartily agree on the traditional marriage rules, and I agree with your premise, but wanted to state that there are Christian men who are simply not academically inclined, yet capable to skilled trades work. In my former church, many of my brethren worked at Boeing, making good money and were able to support their families. However, if a man is able to get a degree in STEM, that is good.
    I agree that physical attractiveness is given too much weight in the selection of marriage partners, but used different reasoning. Perhaps you would be interested in reading it:
    I am repulsed by many of the red pill “Christian” bloggers who seem to elevate physical attractiveness as a virtue and promote it. This is contrary to biblical principles and is hurting the problem rather than helping it.


  2. Well done.
    I’ll now await your follow-up article on the divorce rate for couples where the wife works full-time outside of the home and how men should choose a woman who has demonstrated an ability to do marriage tasks – like taking care of the household full time, raising and nuturing children, being loving and supportive of a husband when times are tough (especially if, God forbid, he should ever find himself unemployed and thus no longer a provider, in which case most wives’ base and visceral impulse is to abandon him), not wanting “a career,” and not insisting that her husband waste all his earnings on fun and thrills for her.


      1. Seriously?

        If a young woman has been raised in a home where the traits I listed are valued by her parents and inculcated as important to the making of a happy, Godly, long-lasting marriage, the odds are overwhelming that her demeanor and her approach to selecting a husband will demonstrate this in unmistakable ways. In other words, there will be no doubt in any man’s mind that being wife and mother to children is her number one priority. No “experience” is necessary to make the desire known (do you really believe all young women come with “experience” and don’t have to earn it through the slow growth process that is marriage – like their husbands have to learn to be providers through work experience? What a bizarre idea…).

        Of course it’s easy to understand why this is so bewildering today, and why no one seems to be able to comprehend the idea of a young woman raised to prioritize becoming a Godly wife and mother above all else. Such a young woman is today such a rarity (at least here in the Western world) that she might as well be a Passenger Pigeon, a California Grizzly Bear, or a Dodo Bird. Few would believe her to be the genuine article even if she made an appearance.


        1. Sir, I am probably old enough to be your mother. I come from a generation when younger girls were expected to be a part of the homemaking, particularly, since, unfortunately, my mother worked since I was 10 and my older sister 15. We were the homemakers for our younger siblings. I cared for my niece while my sister worked. This isn’t to say I agree with women working at all, just the facts of my upbringing. It doesn’t seem a strange thing to me at all that women should be raised to show that they can cook, clean, care for children, etc. These should be ingrained in them from a young age.
          My question arose because you said she could demonstrate she possessed the ability to support a husband during tough times, which she couldn’t possibly have on her “resume”. You would have to assume it from her character and her demonstrated ability in other areas…..


    1. It’s definitely true that two earner homes have a higher risk of divorce. Of course, to afford to keep a wife at home takes a strong provider, since taxes are so high.

      Regarding tough times, I think that the situation for men right now is horrible with respect to marriage and children. $20 trillion debt and a generation of unskilled snowflake millenials voting for socialism in droves. I also think that co-ed schools where teachers and administrators are 80% females produce lousy outcomes for boys (read Christina Hoff Sommers’ “The War on Boys”, 2nd edition). Affirmative action in higher education and in the workplace for women doesn’t help men become providers, either. Men also pay the same premiums for health care as women, and yet they use far less health care: more tilting the field against men. And so on, don’t even get me started on divorce courts and child custody.

      My antidote to the high costs of marrying (when I was still interested in marriage) was to foresee the situation and study fields that I knew would allow me to find work if I was ever laid off, and I also saved money. Unlike most Americans, I don’t think that spending money on fun, and especially on tobacco and alcohol, etc. is OK. I think it’s reasonable for a 45-year-old single male STEM graduate to have a million dollars (in retirement and non-retirement assets). Married men earn more, but they also SPEND a lot more on their wives and children. Naive pro-marriage people are fond of making much about the fact that married men earn 40% more than unmarried men (not true in my case, I’m top 10%), while ignoring how much children cost from 0-18 years. It’s something like a quarter million per child, not counting university, although each child lowers the average cost per child. I think that a man who studies STEM and works full-time will have enough money to retire by age 45-50, and he should definitely do that. Marriage should be seen as something that is only “worth it” in extremely favorable circumstances, and only when the man is getting a woman aged 23-27. The age is important, because not only do men benefit from youth and beauty, it means that she will be able to have 3-4 children, which gets you to a much cheaper per-child rate, thanks to economy-of-scale. Much more importantly – marrying young allows you to have a 2-year “honeymoon” period to get your finances in order and pay off your mortgage loan with two incomes. And then your wife is able to have a positive impact on your career for a much longer period. Women who delay marriage to play the field should be avoided. Who wants to marry a woman who just shows up at age 35, after all the battles have already been fought by you alone?

      So I would say that it is incumbent on the man to do well in school and then go to university and study a field that pays. Don’t follow your heart, do what pays. It doesn’t matter if you like petroleum engineering or computer science, that’s what you’ll study if you want to be immune to “tough times”.

      To be honest, I don’t recommend men marry after age 30 even if they can afford it. If you can’t get a wife who wants to marry while she is in her early to mid-20s AND who is prepared to let you lead the home, then marriage isn’t worth the risks and costs. I think when I was interested in marriage (age 30, BS and MS in computer science, 250K in combined assets, 8 years of full time software engineering experience) I found that less than 1% of women matched my criteria: committed evangelical Protestant, STEM degree, under 25, 2+ years of full-time work, debt free, wanting to be a stay at home wife, wanting 3-5 children, and wanting to be homeschooling mom.

      Of those that passed that criteria, none of them could answer any of my dating questions:

      They had never thought about any of these issues, and they were not interested in learning.

      In my opinion, it’s the explosion of the welfare state, which is designed to redistribute wealth from working husbands to single mothers, that has made it so difficult for men to support a family comfortably. Since the onset of radical feminism in the 1960s, government has exploded in size, so that women who cannot resist bad boys now find it much easier to get by without having to choose a good man. Basically, women who couldn’t be bothered to choose good husbands decided to vote to replace husbands with government, so they would be free to indulge in drinking, hooking up, etc. IN socialist welfare states, you see a lot of “free” stuff: free health care, free day care, free in vitro fertilization, alimony, child support, single mother welfare, etc. How can we afford this? By taxing working men. By taxing employers so much that jobs are shipped overseas. And so on.

      I’m not struggling for money or scared of “tough times”, but since I turned 32, my disposition towards marriage was to avoid it, except in extreme circumstances. If single women keep voting for bigger government and higher taxes, so that they don’t have to choose a good man and can play the fool with the bad boys into their mid-30s, then men like me would could afford marriage will just avoid marriage. When the government runs out of money for the welfare state, then women will start being nice to marriage-ready men again.


      1. Doesn’t the lack of marriage though lead to immorality? I do understand the importance of supporting a family, particularly in these times, but it depends on the standard of living you set for yourself also. I know people who make sacrifices so that the woman can stay home. My former pastor advocated heavily for it. I was one of the few women in our congregation who had to work. It is expensive to raise children, particularly if you want them to go to college.
        What do you think of women having their own business from home? I would like to see our government promote that. Women in times past did have business they performed out of the home and were still able to run their households and raise their children. Some of my friends do that. Also the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 performed some kind of work from home. 🙂


      2. i find it interesting that you can find yourself a future spouse but you often talk about young women you mentor and they end up being married. So maybe you need to figure out the reason why you cant find a wife and i doubt it because they cant fit your criteria. Majority of women dont fit your criteria, even men dont fit that criteria.

        I dont know anyone both christian and non christian that knows about cosmology and some of the other things you listed.

        So maybe you need to figure out what you are lacking cause it clear you are not lacking in the job, finance, spiritual department so you must be lacking in something else.


      1. I can testify to that. I had to be the breadwinner in my family. If I ran the country, every woman would go home and men would work to support them. Women would be homemakers. The country became turned upside down when women went back to work. I can also say from personal experience that children need their mother at home.


  3. Mainly it is about a stable trade or job that can last. Many things such as plumber welder, even auto repair, contractor. Can provide for a family. They are jobs that won’t be going away any time soon and stable enough to support a family.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s