Marriage Brings Wealth, Divorce Steals It

A new study confirms what any divorced person probably suspected: Scrapping a marriage robs you of wealth.

But the misfortune is more severe than merely divvying up the goods.

The study of about 9,000 people found divorce reduces a person's wealth by 77 percent compared to that of a single person.

"Divorce causes a decrease in wealth that is larger than just splitting a couple's assets in half," said Jay Zagorsky of Ohio State University.

Likewise, getting married makes people richer by more than just adding their assets together. Each married person, on average, sees his or her wealth nearly double. Married people increased their wealth about 4 percent per year just as a result of being married, with other factors removed from the equation.

"If you really want to increase your wealth, get married and stay married," Zagorsky said. "On the other hand, divorce can devastate your wealth."

The study relied on surveys of a group of people between 1985 and 2000. They were all between 21 and 28 years old in 1985. The findings are detailed in the current issue of the Journal of Sociology.

After divorce, men had 2.5 times the wealth of women, but this seemingly large disparity worked out to only about $5,100, on average.

For those who got divorced, wealth began to decline about four years before divorce and bottomed out the year prior to divorce.

Wealth begins climbing again in the year of the divorce, but not by much. "Even a decade after divorce, the median wealth stays below $10,000," Zagorsky said.

The study did not look for reasons, but Zagorsky said other research suggests the pooling of effort makes couples more efficient, and they live cheaper by sharing a house.