Wives' part-time employment and marital stability in Great Britain, West Germany and the United States
Many hail wives’ part-time employment as a work-family balance strategy, but theories offer competing predictions as to the effects of wives’ employment on relationship stability. We use panel data to test these competing hypotheses among recent cohorts of first-married couples in Great Britain, West Germany and the United States. We find effects of wives’ employment on marital stability vary across the countries. In West Germany with its high-quality part-time employment, couples where the wife works part time are significantly more stable. In the more liberal British and US labour markets, neither wives’ part- nor full-time employment significantly alters divorce risk. In the United States, however, mothers working part time have significantly lower divorce risk. West German and British husbands’ unemployment proves more detrimental to marital stability than wives’ employment. These results highlight the importance of the socioeconomic context in structuring the optimal employment participation of both partners.
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