European Journal of Population

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 89–113 | Cite as

Mixed Marriages in Germany: A High Risk of Divorce for Immigrant-Native Couples

  • Nadja Milewski
  • Hill Kulu


This study investigates the effect of native/immigrant intermarriage on divorce. We used a rich longitudinal dataset from the German Socio-Economic Panel and applied event-history techniques to examine the risk of divorce among immigrants in Germany. Our analysis of the divorce rates of 5,648 marriages shows that immigrant couples have a lower risk of divorce than do natives. However, marriages between German-born individuals and immigrants have a higher likelihood of separation than marriages between two German-born individuals or between immigrants from the same country, supporting the exogamy hypothesis. This pattern largely persists when controlling for the socio-demographic and human-capital characteristics of the spouses. The divorce risk increases with the cultural distance between the partners and when the spouses demonstrate differences in their social backgrounds, also supporting the heterogamy hypothesis and the selectivity hypothesis. We found no support for the adaptation and convergence hypotheses. Divorce levels for mixed marriages are neither similar to the levels of one of the constituent origin groups, nor do they fall between the levels of the two groups; the divorce levels for native/immigrant marriages are higher than those for endogamous marriages.


Mixed marriage Divorce Union dissolution Immigrant integration Exogamy effect Germany 

Mariages mixtes en Allemagne: un risque de divorce élevé pour les couples immigrant(e) et natif(ve) d’Allemagne


Cette recherche examine l’effet d’un mariage mixte entre immigrant(e) et partenaire natif(ve) d’Allemagne sur le divorce. Les données longitudinales du panel socio-économique allemand ont été utilisées ainsi que des techniques d’analyse des biographies pour étudier les risques de divorce chez les immigrants en Allemagne. L’analyse des taux de divorce de 5.648 mariages montre que les couples d’immigrants ont un risque moins élevés de divorce que les couples dont les deux partenaires sont nés en Allemagne. Cependant, les mariages entre des hommes et des femmes nés en Allemagne et des immigrant(e)s ont une probabilité de rupture d’union plus élevée que celle observée chez les couples dont les partenaires sont tous deux originaires d’Allemagne ou les couples d’immigrants de même pays d’origine, confortant ainsi l’hypothèse d’exogamie. Ce schéma subsiste après contrôle des capitaux socio-économiques et culturels des époux. Le risque de divorce s’accroît avec l’augmentation de la distance culturelle entre les partenaires et lorsque les époux appartiennent à des milieux sociaux différents, appuyant ainsi les hypothèses d’hétérogamie et de sélection. Les résultats ne permettent pas de confirmer les hypothèses d’adaptation et de convergence. Les niveaux de divortialité des mariages mixtes diffèrent des niveaux observés chez les groupes d’origine de l’un ou l’autre des partenaires et ne se situent pas non plus entre les niveaux de chacun de ces groupes d’origine. Les niveaux de divortialité des mariages entre immigrant(e)s et partenaires originaires du pays sont plus élevés que ceux des mariages endogamiques.


Mariage mixte Divorce Rupture d’union Intégration d’immigrant Effet de l’exogamie Allemagne 



Research by Nadja Milewski was supported by a European Reintegration Grant provided by Marie Curie Actions (FP7 People, PERG-GA-2009-249266—MigFam) and funded by the European Commission. Hill Kulu’s research was a part of research project on Families and Societies funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under Grant agreement No. 320116. The views expressed in this paper do not reflect the views of the funding agencies. A first draft of this paper was presented at the European Population Conference in 2012. We wish to thank Dr. Martin Dribe and other conference participants as well as two anonymous reviewers for feedback and helpful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Sociology and DemographyUniversity of RostockRostockGermany
  2. 2.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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