Sunday, May 17, 2009

This and that

I got a chance to take a closer look at the research article Jason Malloy linked to to support the claim that the majority of cases of wife-initiated divorce are not due to husbands behaving badly. (Thanks to him for digging it up).

The problem is that people are asked what was caused the divorce, but they are not asked to whom they are referring. For example, a woman says that infidelity was the cause, but we don't know if she or her husband was the guilty party. Some of them seem more mutual, like "grew apart", but others are simply unclear. You can see all spontaneously mentioned causes in the table. (Notice how there isn't a single case of, "He turned into a wuss." Maybe it was put in "other.")

The authors do report the following correlations--wife respondent/infidelity .11, wife respondent/alcohol and drugs .13, husband repondent/communication .12, wife respondent/abuse .19, and husband respondent/don't know .24--but all this tells us is that one gender is slightly more likely than the other to report that specific cause. But once again, who did the bad thing is not specified, so we can't draw conclusions about about what percent of women-initiated divorces are caused by the husband's behavior. (You might also say that we can't decide this because women are not divided into initiators and non-initiators, but the other study used in this context shows that answers given by both groups of women generally do not differ significantly).

This leaves the 60% figure a shaky one, but let's see where it takes us. Current estimates put the lifetime probability of a marriage breaking up at just under 50%. According to the study I just mentioned, 69.5% of divorce cases are woman-initiated or the couple have made the decision mutually. If we mulitply .60 by .50 by .695, we get .209. So if you get married, there is a 21% chance that you're wife will leave you or the two of you will decide together to split up when you didn't do anything obviously wrong. Some readers are terrified by the prospect. The Spartans at Thermopylae had nothing on these guys. But I've got something from the study though that helps.

The researchers found that family-oriented people as well as those who place a lower value on self-realization are significantly less likely to initiate a divorce. The authors characterize these folks as "traditional." The take home message here is, lower the risk of divorce by marrying a traditional woman and by being a traditional man--just like several commenters and I have written.


  1. Right. I should point out that while Popenoe is simply incorrect that wives initiate more divorce than men because of male bad behavior (wives only blame men for 40% of the divorces that they initiate), that men are either equally responsible, or slightly more responsible for causing divorce.

    Assuming that those who assign blame are the ones that initiated the divorce, and had a "good" reason:

    Wive initiate 70% of divorce and blame the husband 40% of the time. (60% of female initiated divorce is unprovoked)

    Husbands initiate 30% of divorce and blame the wife 21% of the time.
    (79% of male initiated divorce is unprovoked)

    23% of divorces are males "trading-up"
    28% of divorces are males "screwing-up"
    51% of divorces due to men

    42% of divorces are females "trading-up"
    7% of divorces are females "screwing-up"
    49% of divorces due to women

    So women are much more likely to "trade-up," but men are much more likely to "screw-up". And the two cancel each other out. Both men and women are seemingly responsible for about half of divorces.

    If you are an "average" male, you have about a 25% chance of getting screwed over by your wife, you have about a 25% chance of screwing over your wife, and you have about a 50% chance of an enduring marriage.

    Of course, people here are likely more traditional, more intelligent, more educated, higher income, and have an older age at first marriage, and therefore have much better odds than "average".

  2. Truth(er)12:18 AM

    You can't control for trading up.

    If a woman can do that, then marriage is largely a bust.

  3. Ron -- you still don't get it.

    Outside the Mormon Church (which does a LOT of pre-marriage counseling and then has "mentors" buddy-up with newly married men and women for about 3-4 years to guide them over rough spots) it's IMPOSSIBLE to marry a woman living in the 1950's.

    It's a Sex and the City era for women. Of course women will trade up.

    And again, you don't control for age shift. There is no data (that I can see anyway) for rates by age cohorts. THAT is critical because women who came of age in the early 1990's or later are far different than those who came of age in the early 1980's or earlier.

    Attitudes towards "trading up" by women, and so on, are far more different.

    Divorce rates seem higher, significantly higher, among the younger cohorts, but just as significantly, is the refusal of women to marry in the first place. I mean, why would they?

    Marriage is merely a big wedding party, not a lifetime commitment. You don't get married if you spend the majority of your life single, with lots of exciting, dominant, powerful men, only to "marry" some guy who is Joe Average. Why would you if you were a young woman who could afford a kid by herself?

  4. "And again, you don't control for age shift. There is no data (that I can see anyway) for rates by age cohorts. THAT is critical because women who came of age in the early 1990's or later are far different than those who came of age in the early 1980's or earlier."

    Among white women between the ages of 18 to 30 who responded to the GSS in the decade from 1996 to 2006, 53.7% were never married.

    Among white women between the ages of 18 to 30 who responded to the GSS in the decade from 1986 to 1996 (a decade earlier), 46.2% were never married.

    53.7 is about 16.5% more than 46.2. Is that the difference you are talking about?

    "Divorce rates seem higher, significantly higher, among the younger cohorts"

    Do you have a cite for this?

    The evidence I have seen reports that the likelyhood of divorce by number of years married has been declining. In other words, the rate of divorce after five years of a marriage that started in 1980 was higher than the rate of divorce after five years of a marriage that started in 2000.

  5. Conservative and believing girls are both less likely to cheat on their spouses, in addition to being less likely to divorce them as you point out in a more recent post.

  6. Doug12:15 PM

    Jason Malloy--

    I'm highly skeptical about your breakdowns.

    First I think women are FAR more likely once they've made their divorce decision, and in justifying it later, to blame men for bad behavior even when the behavior is identical. Moderate to fairly heavy but not alcoholic levels of drinking that irritate or anger the spouse for example. Emotional attacks, which women will call emotional abuse these days with the feminist media and schools propaganda but men will call nagging, which they don't really categorized for themselves as a wife bad behavior reason for divorce usually, rather just "incompatibility". I don't think these are small gender difference, operating under the current cultural messages but big ones. I think often women are really categorizing ("got tired of him; the spark was no longer there") in some male misbehavior if they can find ANYTHING, whereas I think men don't.

    In fact I think men won't consider their wife's becoming obese, or stopping desiring sex at all after a child for years as just incompatibilities rather than female fault. Whereas any fair assessment of why men get married has to recognize that these are fundamental failures on her part to provide him what he wanted in the first place.

    As well while women are likely to list their mates failure to

    As well, I think most female infidelity does constitute at least the preliminaries of trading up. Not all but most. Whereas I think the great majority of the time male infidelity does not presage a desire on HIS part to end the marriage. Female hypergamy versus male polygamy.


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