First Advisor

Johanna Brenner

Term of Graduation

Spring 1985

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Marriage, Divorce, Married women -- Employment



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, 30 pages)


This thesis examines the effect of women's labor force participation on marital instability. It is hypothesized that women's income-earning affects marriage in two ways: 1) the "independence effect" facilitates divorce by enabling women to be self-supporting; 2) the "parallel marriage effect" improves marital satisfaction and the quality of the marital relationship because women with higher incomes generally have more power in marriage. The "independence effect" is measured by whether or not women's income is sufficient, defined as income above the poverty line for the appropriate family size as established by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Parallel marriage" is measured by the wife-husband income ratio. Both women's own income level and wife-husband income ratio are taken two years prior to her divorce.

It is hypothesized that women with sufficient income will have a higher divorce rate than women with insufficient income. It is also hypothesized that women with incomes closer to their husband's incomes will have "parallel" marriages and lower rate of divorce. In order to determine the net effects of sufficient income and income ratio on divorce, other factors that may affect divorce rates are controlled for--family income, education, presence of preschool age or school-age children, and woman's age.

This study uses data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Labor Market Experience (NLS) designed by the Ohio State University and the U.S. Bureau of the Census. NLS respondents were selected by a sample located in 235 sample areas. multi-stage probability These 235 sample areas included 485 counties and independent cities representing every state and the District of Columbia. This research analyzes one of the cohorts of the NLS survey--older women 34-48--who were married in 1969 and 1971 and either remained married or divorced by 1972.

The results support the hypothesis of an "independence" effect--as women with sufficient income were three times more likely to divorce than women without sufficient incomes. The "parallel" marriage effect was not confirmed. The divorce rate was higher among couples with closer incomes, and lower among couples with a higher income gap.


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