The Negative Educational Gradient in Divorce: Do the Lower Educated Have Worse Marriages?

Diederik Boertien, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Juho Härkönen, Stockholm University

The relationship between education and divorce has reversed in several countries with less educated men and women being currently more likely to divorce. This carries implications for class and gender inequalities in family life, well-being, and children’s life chances. However, little is known about why the least educated currently have lower family stability. Two main explanations can be identified. First, those with less education could have lower marital satisfaction. Second, those with less education could have lower thresholds to divorce. We use data from the British Household Panel Survey to test these two hypotheses (N=3082). We find that marital satisfaction trajectories are practically identical for different educational groups. The hypothesis that lower educated people have worse relationships did not hold. We tested for the validity of a selection and income loss explanation of variation in exit thresholds. Only income considerations were able to explain part of the educational gradient.

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Presented in Poster Session 5