The expected economic impact of marital dissolution and its implications for the likelihood of divorce

Aimee R Dechter, University of Pennsylvania


Although romantic love, social convention and traditional and religious beliefs are emphasized as the impetus for most marriages in contemporary western societies, the economic relationships between spouses are prominent factors in nearly all theoretical perspectives on the causes of marital dissolution. The economic gains to marriage and female economic independence are two frequently discussed routes through which the economic relationships between spouses affect marital stability. These two mechanisms have been central to discussions surrounding the secular rise in divorce, the rapid surge of divorce in the late 1960's and 1970's and the diverging marital patterns of whites and African Americans. Despite efforts to explain the consequences of the economic roles of husbands and wives and the high rate of divorce, available analyses are often incomplete. They provide contradictory evidence on the importance of the economic gains to marriage and the economic independence of wives for the likelihood of divorce. This dissertation introduces the expected economic effects of divorce and the expected economic status outside of marriage as indicators for the gains to marriage and economic independence. Data drawn from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (1968-1987) corroborate that these indicators are related to the likelihood of divorce, but only for couples with children. Nevertheless, even for parents, economic independence appears to be less important substantively than religious identity, marital duration, and several other individual and ecological characteristics. Another objective of this dissertation is to improve upon previous estimates of the economic impact of divorce on women. The expected economic effects of marital dissolution for women is estimated on the basis of personal and ecological characteristics. Models are formulated to detect and correct for possible self-selection bias. Attention is also devoted to uncovering the determinants of the economic consequences of marital dissolution. The results suggest that measures from previous studies using similar nationally representative longitudinal data moderately understate the consequences of divorce by ignoring observed and unobserved differences between the divorcing and non-divorcing population.

Subject Area

Demographics|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Dechter, Aimee R, "The expected economic impact of marital dissolution and its implications for the likelihood of divorce" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9125627.