The effects of marriage partners' socio-economic positions on the risk of divorce in Finland
Keywords:divorce, socio-economic factors, Finland
AbstractThe high and increasing incidence of divorce, with the various consequences for adults and children, has aroused interest among social scientists in understanding the contributory factors. Prominent economic and psychosocial theories suggest that the husband’s social and economic resources tend to stabilize a marriage, whereas the wife’s economic success tends to destabilize it (the gendered hypothesis). Register-based follow-up data from Statistics Finland on first marriages in Finland that were intact at the end of 1990 and divorces in 199193 (n=21,309), and Poisson regression were used to analyze the impact of the socio-economic positions of the spouses on the risk of divorce. This thesis consists of three articles published in international refereed journals, and a summary article. The aim of sub-study I was to disentangle the influences of various aspects of the spouses’ socio-economic positions on divorce risk and to reveal the causal pathways through which each socio-economic factor was related to it. Sub-study II investigated the joint effects of both spouses’ socio-economic positions. Finally, sub-study III explored the possibility that the effect of spouses’ socio-economic positions on divorce risk might vary according to the duration of the marriage.
When examined individually, divorce risk was inversely associated with socio-economic status for all its various indicators (i.e. each spouse’s education, occupational class, economic activity, and income, as well as housing tenure and housing density) except the wife’s income. All of these factors had an independent effect. The independent effect was weak for both spouses’ occupational rankings and housing density, however, and it was positive for the wife’s income. The divorce risk for couples with both partners at the lowest educational level was lower than expected on the basis of its overall inverse association with each spouse’s education. Employed and homemaker women with employed husbands had comparatively stable marriages, whereas couples in which the husband, the wife, or both partners were unemployed had an elevated risk of divorce. The husband’s high income decreased the risk, and the wife’s high income increased it regardless of the level of the other spouse’s income, but the divorce-promoting effect of the wife’s high income was especially strong when the husband’s income was low. The comparatively high divorce risks for spouses with little formal education and those in manual-worker occupations were found to be specific to marriages of relatively short duration. In contrast, factors such as unemployment, the wife’s high income, and living in a rented dwelling were found to increase the risk regardless of marital duration.
Overall, the socio-economic resources of the spouses, irrespective of which spouse had contributed them, decreased the risk of divorce, supporting the gender-neutral hypothesis. However, some aspects of the wife’s resources (absolute and relative to those of her husband) tended to increase the risk. The finding that the less structural socio-economic factors affected divorce risk in a very similar way in marriages of varying duration highlights their importance as factors predicting marital stability.