Men's unpaid work and divorce: reassessing the independence hypothesis

Wendy Sigle-Rushton, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

The independence hypothesis posits that women's greater financial independence reduces their gains from marriage and makes divorce more likely. Consistent with this hypothesis, many studies find a correlation between women's employment and divorce. Nonetheless employment is likely to create conflict when women continue to be largely responsible for unpaid work. The independence hypothesis ignores this source of stress in the private sphere and fails to consider men's behaviour. This paper addresses that oversight. Using data from the 1970 British Cohort Study, we consider both male and female work patterns and ask whether the intra-family distribution of both paid and unpaid work are associated with divorce. Questions on male work patterns and involvement in domestic work and child care allow us to assess whether or not men's unpaid work mediates the associations of female employment and divorce. We also examine whether male work patterns are associated with women's psychological health.

Presented in Session 145: Sharing time within the couple and family life