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European Journal of Population

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 663–687 | Cite as

His and Her Education and Marital Dissolution: Adding a Contextual Dimension

  • Lindsay Theunis
  • Christine Schnor
  • Didier Willaert
  • Jan Van Bavel
Article

Abstract

Educationally hypogamous marriages, where the wife is more educated than the husband, have been expected to be less stable than other educational pairings, in part because they do not conform to social norms. With the reversal of the gender gap in education, such marriages have become more common than in the past. Recent research suggests that this new context might be beneficial for the stability of hypogamous unions compared to other educational pairings. Here, we investigate how educational matches in married couples are associated with divorce risks taking into account the local prevalence of hypogamy. Using Belgian census and register data for 458,499 marriages contracted between 1986 and 2001, we show that hypogamy was not associated with higher divorce rates than homogamy in communities where hypogamy was common. Against expectations, marriages in which the husband was more educated than the wife tend to exhibit the highest divorce rates. More detailed analysis of the different types of educational matches revealed that marriages with at least one highly educated partner, male or female, were less divorce prone compared to otherwise similar couple types.

Keywords

Assortative mating Divorce Education Hypogamy 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors are very grateful to Gray Swicegood (University of Illinois), Christine Schwartz (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions. Special thanks go to the research group Interface Demograpy of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel for the support in allowing access to their data and infrastructure. Earlier versions of this manuscript have been presented at the 12th Meeting of the European Network for the Sociological and Demographic Study of Divorce (2014) in Paris; the 40th Chaire Quetelet Conference (2014) in Louvain-la-Neuve; and the Annual meeting of the Population Association of America (2015) in San Diego.

Funding

This study was funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement No. 312290 for the GENDERBALL project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Sociological ResearchUniversity of LeuvenLouvainBelgium
  2. 2.Department of SociologyVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

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