New study: 1 in 8 divorces is caused by student loan debt

I like to make plans in advance and calculate everything out before I try to do anything. This is the curse of being a software engineer. We’re taught to take a test-first approach to design. So, when I think about marriage, I naturally think about what tests marriage is supposed to pass, and work backwards from there to requirements for each of the spouses.

Here’s some research from CNBC that might help young people to avoid a divorce, if they respect the research in their choices.


When it comes to student loan debt, “for richer, for poorer” doesn’t quite cut it.

In general, finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship, according to a study by SunTrust Bank, but student debt takes a particularly hard toll on a marriage.

More than a third of borrowers said college loans and other money factors contributed to their divorce, according to a recent report from Student Loan Hero, a website for managing education debt.

In fact, 13 percent of divorcees blame student loans specifically for ending their relationship, the report found. Student Loan Hero surveyed more than 800 divorced adults in June.

Here is a link to the full study from Student Loan Hero.

I think in general, you can’t just do whatever you want before marrying and jump into it unprepared. Marriage involves specific requirements in order to work, such as being faithful to your spouse, and buying things that you need for the marriage enterprise, like a home, and baby stuff. It doesn’t make any sense to say “I want to get married” and then not prepare for marriage by being careful about preparing for the behaviors marriage that requires of you. Being debt-free is one of those behaviors that marriage requires of you.

So how can we be debt-free, so that the marriage will be stable? Well, one way to be debt-free is to find a way to learn skills that will allow you to get a job without going to college, like being a self-taught software engineer. One of my friends actually did that, and now he’s with a very good software company as a remote worker. But if you’re going to go to college, you can avoid debt by studying something that will get you a high-paying job when you graduate.

This 2017 article from Harvard Business Review is interesting.

It says:

Examining 46,934 resumes shared on Glassdoor by people who graduated between 2010 and 2017, the researchers looked at each person’s college major and their post-college jobs in the five years after graduation. They then estimated the median pay for each of those jobs (also using Glassdoor data) for employees with five years of experience or less. Their key finding: “Many college majors that lead to high-paying roles in tech and engineering are male dominated, while majors that lead to lower-paying roles in social sciences and liberal arts tend to be female dominated, placing men in higher-paying career pathways, on average.”

Here’s the plot, and you can click it to expand it:

Starting salaries by major, broken out by gender
Median salaries by major, broken out by gender – don’t study things at the bottom!

As you can see from the graph, it’s especially important to share the message about choosing a major, salaries and student loan debt with WOMEN, because as the graph shows, they tend to choose the wrong majors, if the goal is to pay off student loans and avoid divorce. Everyone who wants marriage to go smoothly needs to choose majors that are near the top of the graph, like nursing, chemical engineering, computer science, or mechanical engineering. It doesn’t make sense to go to college if you aren’t going to graduate in one of these high-paying fields.

As you might expect from the graph, women hold the majority of student loan debt, according to the Boston Globe, and that’s because women tend to choose majors that don’t result in good-paying jobs. And we already saw how this becomes a risk factor for divorce.

Student loans delay marriage and children

Another interesting piece of data, reported by The Consumerist, is that people with student loans tend to delay marriage, which means the couple has fewer children:

As consumers navigate life’s financial journey, they are faced with major financial milestones, like buying a home. But student loans are also delaying consumers from reaching these goals.

Survey respondents report delaying homeownership (23 percent), buying or leasing a car (23 percent), having children (10 percent) and getting married (9 percent) because of their student loan burdens.

So, it’s not just that there is an increased risk of divorce from student loans, but there’s also fewer children, which means a diminished legacy. I can’t speak for how others would see this, but for myself, I want to pass on my beliefs to as many effective, influential Christian children as I can.

Anyway, I feel obligated to post a relevant Dave Ramsey video, just to remind everyone that stewardship of money is a Christian virtue, and that being forgiven by Jesus for your sins doesn’t automatically make you good with money. It takes planning and stewardship.

This one from 2014: (H/T Robb)


When I was in high school, I was far more interested in becoming an English teacher than I was in becoming a software engineer. It was my Dad who overruled my choice of college major when I was still in high school. He had me take a first-year English course at a local university. When I saw how politicized and useless it was (they were studying all sorts of politically correct postmodern relativist stuff, instead of the Great Works, and they weren’t trying to learn any wisdom from any of it), I chose computer science. I did what was likely to avoid divorce, and likely to support having many children.

9 thoughts on “New study: 1 in 8 divorces is caused by student loan debt”

  1. I haven’t pursued (or continued) relationships for this very reason….I know someone that has over 100K in student loans and will be paying them off until age 65….but this person had a great time in college! This money could’ve been better spend on investments or a STEM degree….I concur with WK on this, today’s youth have been sold a bill of goods…lest I give the impression of self-righteousness, I too made mistakes and got two “soft-science” degrees, which while fun are not very financially renumerative.
    Fortunately, I have been able to make some investments and secure a position that offers a fixed-benefit pension. I have also embarked upon a second career which should allow me to fatten my investments, so for those of you that haven’t gotten a STEM degree, take heart! There is always a way to better your situation, just reach up to God, educated yourself on investments and try to get ahead!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Investments are a way to come back from mistakes, but even these will require deferring gratification. I don’t see a lot of that in young people who seem to think that traveling for fun and thrills right now is more important than having more years of freedom later.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am eternally grateful to my father for encouraging me to work throughout both my undergrad and graduate education while taking the minimal amount of student loans possible….he also encouraged me to pay them back immediately, instead of during the three-year grace period….he also let me live at home which furthered my savings, so I did have to delay the adventure of going off to college which is overrated and fades with time….
        looking back, if I had it to do over, I would’ve gone to med school or some other aspect of medicine, perhaps the military which offers a pension or a good trade school….there are many routes to economic freedom! I just want to offer hope to those who didn’t always make the best decisions and let everyone know that it is never too late!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I was going to study English but my dad suggested taking University courses in high school to test, then he suggested computer science instead when I hated the moral relativism, feminism and political correctness in English courses.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t get your response. My point refers to the most common vows which in part says, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer”. There’s no limit on either extreme and we vow to love regardless until death. Thus, to break up over debt is in clear conflict with those vows, suggesting they weren’t taken in earnest and thus, it wasn’t much of a marriage from the start.

        When I married 30 years ago (for the first and only time), I was quite concerned with what taking a vow meant, and I pondered long and hard on what “for worse” means and how that might manifest. I made it as bad as I could imagine “worse” could be and considered how my life would be under those circumstances and if I had the strength to persevere. Among the many variations and manifestations of “worse” that I could conceive, debt seemed among the more benign regardless of what an intense pain in the ass debt is while it remains…which is great.


  2. People that spend q lot of money like that are also more likely to just waste there money which only makes it worse.

    My wife give me almost her entire pay because she is not a saver and will spend it if she has it.

    It works for us and though it may seem belittling that she asks me for money it works best.

    That way we rarely run out of accessible money.

    I also see the independent mentality causes many people to see their pay cheques is their own and to many people their spouses pay is also accessible to request more.

    I also have a friend that is married and they work it separate financially but treat bills as if they are roommates. Splitting up rent and utilities as their own share. So if one spends a lot online one month they are the one that personally has to figure it out. And for them it has worked

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On average, I think men tend to be more practical with money, while women take fewer pointless risks. I always run my major risk decisions past my female advisors before doing anything, and they their big purchases past me first.


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