Unemployment Can Spell Divorce for Men, But Not Women

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The possibility of losing your job is bad enough. But for men, unemployment status can also make it more likely their wives will divorce them, a new study finds.

Whether or not a woman had a job, however, had no effect on the likelihood that her husband would decide to leave the marriage, the researchers said.

The findings reveal that despite more women entering the workplace, the pressure on husbands to be breadwinners largely remains, according to researchers at Ohio State University.

In addition to upping the chances their wives would leave them, unemployed men themselves were more likely to initiate divorce — even if they reported being happy in their marriage — than guys with jobs. [6 Scientific Tips for a Successful Marriage]

Unlike unemployed men, unemployed women were less likely to initiate divorce than their employed counterparts. Employed women were more likely to initiate a divorce than women with jobs, but only when they were highly unsatisfied with the marriage.

"These effects probably emanate from the greater change in women's than men's roles," the researchers write in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Sociology. "Women's employment has increased and is accepted, men's nonemployment is unacceptable to many, and there is a cultural ambivalence and lack of institutional support for men taking on 'feminized' roles such as household work and emotional support."

A woman's unemployment status or decision to enter the work force is not a violation of any marriage norms. Instead, the researchers found that employment provides women with financial security, which enables them to leave a marriage when they become highly unsatisfied with their husbands.

The study, which was led by Liana Sayer of Ohio State University, was based on data from more than 3,600 couples that had been collected from three waves of the U.S. National Survey of Families and Households. The survey waves were conducted from 1987-88, 1992-94 and 2001-02.

You can follow LiveScience writer Remy Melina on Twitter @remymelina. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescienceand on Facebook.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.