Educated women less threatening to their husbands – apparently
The Divorce News I read today in the Telegraph online is that Men are happier with a smarter wife – according to a study showing a dramatic shift in divorce patterns. It appears that younger husbands are the first generation of men not to find more highly educated women ‘threatening’.
Or is there another way of seeing this?
With more than 2.2 million UK women now the main breadwinners in 41% of homes, this study led by Prof Christine Schwartz – a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin – is significant.
Drawing from a mass of US marriage statistics, the research concluded that there has been a major shift away from the traditional “breadwinner-homemaker” model of marriage. Its authors said that the research undermined claims that the increasing participation of women in the workplace was undermining the traditional family.
The research drew on the fortunes of thousands of couples who married over a period of more than 50 years. Those who married since the turn of the century who have equal levels of education are now more likely to stay together than their counterparts in which the man was more qualified.
“Our results show a large shift in the association between spouses’ relative education and marital dissolution,” the paper co-authored by Prof Schwartz and Hongyun Han, a research analyst at Northwestern University, explains.
“Specifically, marriages in which wives have the educational advantage were once more likely to dissolve, but this association has disappeared in more recent marriage cohorts.
“Another key finding is that the relative stability of marriages between educational equals has increased.”
Prof Schwartz added: “These trends are consistent with a shift away from a breadwinner-homemaker model of marriage toward a more egalitarian model of marriage in which women’s status is less threatening to men’s gender identity.
“The relationship between one’s educational attainment, marriage formation, and risk of divorce appears to suggest that couples are adapting to the reality that women have more education than men.
“Overall, our results speak against fears that women’s growing educational advantage has had more negative effects on marital stability.”
So is this news such a surprise?
Well did anyone really think we were going to end up with all the educated women as spinsters whilst the less educated stayed in miserable marriages putting up with being unfulfilled and unhappy just because they were stupid? Since the reality is that most people prefer not to go through a divorce unless they absolutely feel it is necessary, could there be another causal factor behind these statistics?
Could it be that the real reason that more educated women are keeping their marriages together is not just because men are becoming more emotionally intelligent – but because educated women are often career women, who have their names on the mortgages and need to bring in an income to afford the lifestyle that educated people prefer – and so they just can’t afford to get divorced as easily as if they were completely dependent on their husbands?
Could it be that less ‘educated’ women now have more financial freedom because they are not so financially embroiled with their husbands? Perhaps less likely to be partners in the same business or co-owning a slate of investment properties – compared to their more educated career-minded sisters – so it’s just much easier for them to split up?
So is the only reason that educated women are staying married longer because men are becoming more emotionally intelligent? Or is this adding 1 + 1 to make 5?
For those women who find themselves having to pay maintenance to their husbands who seem unable to match their salary level, and have shared equity in the family home and shared business ventures, staying together may appear to have more advantages than splitting – and you don’t need a Maths degree to work that one out.
I comment further in this slightly tongue in cheek Divorce News item: