October 17, 2001
Study refutes money-divorce link
When the vows break, don't blame it on financial problems.
Money is not the number one cause of divorce, says a researcher
at California State University, Sacramento.
Contrary to popular belief, there's no evidence that money
issues are the major factor when marriages break up, says
Jan Andersen, a CSUS family and consumer sciences professor.
He presented his findings last week at the Western Region
Home Management Family Economic Educators conference.
It's a misconception with staying power. "When I ask
students why it's important to study personal and family finance,
invariably someone answers, 'Because money is the number one
cause of divorce,'" Andersen says. "I had heard
that in seminars and read articles that quoted it. But I realized
I had never seen any evidence to back it, so I decided to
look into it further," he says.
What he found is that no research supports the assumption
beyond a 1950s study where "nonsupport" was ranked
as the number one cause. Otherwise money was never cited as
higher than fourth or fifth.
For his own research, Andersen looked at a national database
of more than 2,000 husband and wife households. The data was
collected over a 12-year period from 1980-92 in interviews
conducted in 1980, 1983, 1988 and 1992. Andersen zeroed in
on questions related to money to see if financial trouble
in one time period predicted the likelihood of divorce in
a future time period.
The result - as predictors of divorce, financial problems
are useless, he says. "It was a non-finding that was
quite interesting. Financial problems never explained more
than five percent of the variability in divorce.
"If financial problems are so important, there would
have been a stronger relationship. They appear to be merely
a small part of the mix."
Andersen admits that more research needs to be done to determine
if other factors played a role in the results. But, he says,
"Perhaps financial problems are no longer the 'real'
cause of divorce."
Andersen speculates that financial issues may not be as important
as they once were when the husband was expected to be the
sole breadwinner. The 1950s study used 1948 data from women
only and focused on what was important in post-WWII America.
At that time "nonsupport," meaning the husband did
not bring home enough money for basic expenses, was cited
as the number one cause of divorce. Now, Andersen says, both
spouses have expectations of bringing in money.
"Or, perhaps, financial problems were never a major factor
in most divorces, but were cited by respondents in earlier
studies because they were legally or socially acceptable reasons
for divorce," he says.
Andersen is working on a follow-up study that will include
additional information on credit, debt and assets. He hopes
to have results by summer.
More information and copies of Andersen's study are available
by calling the public affairs office at (916) 278-6156.
further information send E-Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or
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