While divorce rates for Americans overall appear to be falling, older Americans are still getting divorced at fairly high rates. According to Bloomberg, this has led to some interesting outcomes in terms of how older Americans are working and retiring.
Approximately one in five Americans over the age of 65 are still working, a record numbers. In fact, this is twice as many as in the early 1980s, and by far the most since Medicare was launched in the mid-1960s. Many experts are linking these trends to the divorce rate in the Baby Boomer generation, as these later breakups are forcing people to delay their retirements.
Divorce Has a Greater Impact on Women
A joint study at Boston College and Mathematica Policy Research also indicates that this higher level of monetary stress is also playing a significant role in the numbers of older women who are returning to the workforce.
According to the study, the later a woman gets divorced, the more likely it is she will be working full time late in her life. The roughly 56,000 women in the study who divorced while in their 50s were about 10 percentage points more likely to be working full time between the ages of 50 and 74 compared to women who divorced before the age of 30.
Additionally, women who were born in the early 1950s were 19 percentage points more likely to be working full time after the age of 50 than women who were born in the 1920s, with factors such as race and education controlled in the study.
Men without Full-Time Jobs Most Likely to Get Divorced
A recent Harvard University Department of Sociology study has revealed that men who do not have a full-time job may be more likely to get divorced than their peers.
The study suggests that despite what many people think, factors like a couple’s current earnings or a wife’s ability to support herself post-divorce do not really play a role in whether a couple will get divorced.
Researchers looked at data on divorcing couples between 1975 and 2011. What they found was that whether or not husbands were engaged in full-time work outside of the home was strongly linked with the couple’s risk of getting divorced. However, couples who got married before that time period were more likely to be affected by the amount of housework being done by the wife.
This appears to mean that what matters is not the cash itself, but rather the employment status and division of labor at home — and their symbolic value. Researchers posit that these gendered expectations of each spouse have a significant impact on the health of a relationship.
Predicting the risk of divorce
Researchers analyzed data collected in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, focusing on 6,300 couples in their first marriages. In marriages since 1975 in which the husband did not work full time outside of the home for any reason that was not his choice (including trouble finding a job or having lost a job), the average risk for divorce within the next year was 3.3 percent. That’s compared to just 2.5 percent for husbands who were employed full time.
Thus, while the idea of the “male breadwinner” might seem like it’s becoming an outdated cultural trope, it still appears to have an influence on the status of many relationships.
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