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Study: A woman's success can increase her divorce odds

One of the great disruptors of marital bliss -- or at least relative contentment -- is when a large financial or status imbalance develops between spouses that wasn't there at the start of the marriage. Even in the 21st century, it seems that this imbalance is more damaging to a marriage when it's the wife who acquires professional success than when the husband does.

A study published this year by a political scientist and an economist from two Swedish universities looked at how success in both the private and public sectors impacted marriages. They used 30 years of detailed data from the Swedish government on its citizens to formulate their conclusions.

The researchers looked primarily at people who had run for elective office -- specifically those who ran for Parliament or for mayor. They found that three years after the election, women who had won were 7 percent less likely to still be married than women who had lost their bid for office. That was double the average divorce probability for other women of the same education level and age. Interestingly, men's electoral success had no statistical impact on their probability of remaining married.

In the private sector, researchers found that married women who were promoted to chief executive officer (CEO) positions were twice as likely as their male counterparts to be divorced within three years.

In both the public and private sectors, these differences were noticeable only among couples who started out their marriages in "gender traditional" roles, where the wife's career took a back seat to her husband's. These roles were determined based on how the couples had split the generous 480-day leave granted to new parents. Where couples appeared to put equal importance on their careers at the start, success by the woman didn't seem to impact their odds of divorce.

Obviously, every couple is different. However, a significant change in a wife's career often has a more significant impact on a family and division of responsibilities than a husband's. Further, if a wife's career aspirations and success change significantly from what they were early in the marriage, she may find herself with a husband she sees as unsupportive. Therefore, she may have more incentive to leave the marriage. Regardless of the reasons behind the divorce, a wife who considerably outearns her husband needs to ensure that she gets a fair financial settlement.

Source: Fortune, "Being Promoted May Double Women's Odds of Getting Divorced," Valentina Zarya, March 05, 2018

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