Essay on Divorce
Nancy Marie Brown
January 1, 2002
"In the 1970s, divorce escalated like crazy. Women were entering the labor force in incredible numbers. Are those two things related," asks Alan Booth, "or aren't they?
"And if divorce is not related to women working, what is it related to?"
Booth, a Penn State sociologist, has been asking that question for 20 years. He himself has been divorced and remarried in the meantime, as has his co-investigator on the National Longitudinal Study of Marriage, Paul Amato. More to the point, they and their colleagues have amassed hours of survey data on 2,000 married men and women, interviewed by telephone, paper, or computer survey up to six times over the …show more content…
Over the last 20 years, notes Amato, "Family income went up a lot. Not because the wages of the men went up—men's wages have remained stagnant—but because the women entered the workforce and salaries for women did go up." According to their most recent surveys, 60 percent of married women are now employed, and their families are better off for it, both economically and psychologically. "In 2000, married individuals are more likely to own their own homes, they have higher incomes, they report they feel good about their family's economic wellbeing, a smaller proportion are using public assistance—there's not as much economic stress," Amato says.
"And family life is more egalitarian in terms of who is making the decisions," he adds. "Both husbands and wives are telling us this. In 1980, it was common for the husband to say he makes all the decisions. But when families reach decisions together, we've found, they're happier. Equality is good for a marriage. It's good for both husbands and wives. If the wife goes from a patriarchal marriage to an egalitarian one, she'll be much happier, much less likely to look for a way out. And in the long run, the husbands are happier too."
What exactly do people mean when they say they're happily married, and what prompts them to consider divorce?
When they began the study in 1980, Booth and his colleagues, then at the University of Nebraska, came up