Promotions and gender-specific divorce risk

by on December 22, 2016 at 1:47 pm in Data Source, Economics, Law | Permalink

We show that promotions to top jobs dramatically increase women’s probability of divorce, but do not affect men’s marriages. This effect is causally estimated for top jobs in the political sector, where close electoral results deliver exogenous variation in promotions across job candidates. Descriptive evidence from job promotions to the position of CEO shows that private sector promotions result in the same gender inequality in the risk of divorce.

The paper is by Olle Folke and Johanna Rickne, via James Feigenbaum.

1 Highgamma December 22, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Why is this inequality instead of difference.

2 Tarrou December 22, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Any difference between the sexes that can be spun as a positive for women is a big suck it to the patriarchy! Any difference which doesn’t look good for women is the result of evil sexist men.

3 Rick December 22, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Yep. This is relevant to a recent MR post, where we were to wonder why in the world men wouldn’t want to marry “ambitious” women.

4 Urso December 22, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Seems to me that every divorce that affects a woman would also affect a man. Well, almost every divorce.

Not sure about the pessimism here. Maybe it’s that women who get promoted to those awesome C-level positions are finally able to slough off their loser husbands for a better model?

5 Alain December 22, 2016 at 3:34 pm


6 ladderff December 22, 2016 at 4:44 pm

This thread again? There is nothing more to learn, teach, or say on this subject. Thanks to the web we have mostly all already been sorted into the naive, the willfully obtuse, and the sensible.

7 MyName December 22, 2016 at 8:10 pm

Well the assumption is that divorce is a bad thing. Which means that if it is happening more to women who are promoted to CEO than to men that are promoted to CEO then it is an inequality. However, I don’t think the author was trying to be all that proscriptive with the paper.

8 Troll me December 22, 2016 at 10:09 pm

If there is a difference between them, this is an inequality. Kind of like 19 does not equal 20 kind of logic.

Maybe they should abolish the word “inequality” and replace it with a more detailed explanation.

“The situation between one group and the other is systematically DIFFERENT and to people in the group which the number is lower, they might think that it not fair. So then what?”

Or … maybe “inequality” is not a dirty word. Some more fighting words could also be selected as compared to the suggestion above.

Among other things, inequality generally represents underutilization of capacity due to barriers to reaching potential.

9 Skeptic December 22, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Hypergamy explains this. Female Hypergamy.

10 EverExtruder December 22, 2016 at 2:39 pm

In a nutshell…

11 required December 23, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Women prefer Hypergamy, so this is not sexist. Inequality does not equal sexism.

12 too hot for MR December 22, 2016 at 2:12 pm

To find writers who fully embrace the renunciation of leftist errancy that is Trump, I have to click over to Takimag et al.

Here it’s all trigger warnings, “gender inequality,” and Trump lowering the status of “people.”

13 msgkings December 22, 2016 at 3:13 pm

OK, bye bye!

14 Urso December 22, 2016 at 3:37 pm

He is, if nothing else, true to his username

15 too hot for MR December 22, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Heh heh. I like you guys and I still Iike Tyler. He’s just pinned by the constraints of academic groupthink.

16 msgkings December 22, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Or maybe, y’know, he just doesn’t like Trump as much as you.

17 too hot for MR December 22, 2016 at 5:34 pm

I should clarify: I voted Johnson and shared common opinions of Trump the man. But Trump the phenomenon? It should be a brilliant and fantastic libertarian moment. My own reaction to the election was one of massive anti-regulatory optimism. I’m just surprised that the tone on MR is closer to the wails and lamentations from the left, though it softening somewhat.

18 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Political Tribe December 22, 2016 at 7:26 pm

Are all Libertarians admitting that they are crony capitalists now?

19 too hot for MR December 22, 2016 at 7:55 pm

I see no reason why Trump should be any greater boon to crony capitalism than was Obama. Obama’s ACA had several parallels to Bush’s Iraq–handouts to corporations perhaps among the more prominent.

20 rayward December 22, 2016 at 2:22 pm

It would be interesting to see the differences where it’s a power couple (roughly the same earnings), the wife earns more than the husband, and the husband earns more than the wife. Interesting but I’m not sure it would tell us much. I work with (mostly male) doctors, and when one of them calls me for a referral to a divorce lawyer, I always give the same advice: You don’t need a divorce lawyer, you need a psychiatrist. Have your fling with the pretty young tech at the hospital, but be discreet and don’t embarrass yourself or your family. You’ll get over it eventually and come to your senses and thank me for the advice.

21 y81 December 22, 2016 at 2:32 pm

Being half of a low-grade power couple (i.e., two lawyers each earning between $250K and $500K), I think there’s a breakpoint at about the level where one partner earns twice what the other does. When the ratio is 55/45 or 60/40, then both incomes are essential for the family to maintain its standard of living, but at about 67/33, the lower income comes to seem more like a hobby. We had that dynamic when I worked for the state, in a position that was reasonably prestigious, but only paid about a third of what my wife made. The power imbalance within the marriage was one reason I quit that job. (Also, we genuinely needed more money.)

22 Alain December 22, 2016 at 3:49 pm

It is entirely asymmetrical. Far greater ratios are ‘common’ in the opposite direction, and marriages survive.

23 Cliff December 22, 2016 at 9:53 pm

“Also, we genuinely needed more money.”


24 Stormy Dragon December 22, 2016 at 10:40 pm

How could they possibly get by on only $330k – $660k per year!? That’s practically like being homeless!

25 Keith December 23, 2016 at 6:37 am

Haha so funny 😊

26 Batou Kovacs December 31, 2016 at 11:46 am

It’s two lawyers married to each other. Lawyers destroyed our banks, our labor base, our manufacturing sector, our balls, and brought us feminism with a $20 trillion national debt. Die in a tire fire simps.

27 dearieme December 22, 2016 at 2:34 pm

And do they?

28 Art Deco December 22, 2016 at 3:04 pm

They don’t need a psychiatrist or a mistress. They need patience.

29 yo December 22, 2016 at 2:30 pm

I once thought with all the affirmative action, making a sex change to get that CEO job wouldn’t be seen as carrierist advice. But if on top of that the price is that I would lose my wife, I’m not on board any more.

30 yo December 22, 2016 at 2:30 pm

I once thought with all the affirmative action, making a sex change to get that CEO job wouldn’t be seen as carrierist. But if on top of that the price is that I would lose my wife, I’m not on board any more.

31 Troll me December 22, 2016 at 10:12 pm

Do transgender or post-sex-change “women” count towards gender quotas in places where they apply?

32 yo December 23, 2016 at 4:38 am

Yes, why shouldn’t they? Anyway, to fill a board quota, I once advised an engineering services company to seek out a kindergarden to merge with. My proposal wasn’t taken seriously though.

33 Steve Sailer December 22, 2016 at 10:37 pm

A very smart fellow I was on a team with in Marketing Strategy class at UCLA MBA school in 1981 is now listed as “the highest paid female CEO” in America.

34 Keith December 23, 2016 at 6:39 am

Martine Rothblatt then.

35 Art Deco December 22, 2016 at 3:02 pm

It would be interesting to see the descriptive statistics on the identity of plaintiff and defendant in these divorces. Most marriages, the wife is the plaintiff. Does that change as you move up the social scale? Does it change only when you reach these rather rarefied circumstances?

Men are success objects, women derive status from achieving husbands (while men derive no status or suffer embarrassment from an achieving wife), and women with the moxie to land in the CEO’s chair are less likely to have the sort of social skills which women customarily draw on to maintain a marriage (while husbands of high-achieving women are less likely to have the disposition and skills to take care of their spouse in ways that help someone with a demanding position thrive). So, the husband leaves or is ejected and replaced with a combination of hired help and companionship-without-status.

People commonly arrive at high positions in late middle age. Does having an older (retired) husband reduce the risk of divorce (Over and above the reduced risk people face as they age)?

36 Ignacio December 22, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Makes sense.

“Women derive status from achieving husbands”. Maybe enjoying this status allows women to tolerate a busy husband or one that is substandard. However, since “men derive no status or suffer embarrassment from an achieving wife”, they simply have nothing to compensate the frustration of having a busy wife or a wife with which they are not so happy. So it may be more that women like having successful husbands enough that they put up with the disadvantages, while husbands of successful women do not derive benefit from a successful wife.

37 Ali Choudhury December 22, 2016 at 3:51 pm

Uhh really? There are a number of high-achieving women in my family and friends and their husbands appear to be quite proud of them.

38 too hot for MR December 22, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Placation to avoid divorce, no doubt.

39 Ignacio December 22, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Maybe because they have genuinely happy marriages.

The comment refers to a phenomenon that may occur at the margin; that is, if a woman is not too happy with her husband, she may get divorced; but if he gets a promotion, the pleasure she gets from her increased status may offset her unhappiness and decide not to get divorced. The same does not happen for men (they do not enjoy the same increase in status for the success of their wife), so their unhappiness will not be offset by greater status arising from the success of their wife.

In the case of your family and friends, the husbands may be happy enough that they do not wish to be divorced, even without an increase in status.

40 msgkings December 23, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Self-reported happiness shows that the happiest category is married men, followed by single women, then single men, then married women being the least happy. Men much prefer being married. Women think they do but it’s the opposite in fact.

41 required December 23, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Women want the sex without the marriage, but that is difficult for them.

42 Snowden December 31, 2016 at 12:59 pm

This statistic is accomplished by putting all divorced men (~40% of all men who have married) into the single man category along with the simple fact that the biggest loser group of men will be single because they are of such poor genetic stock that no woman will have them.

And an alternate explanation for single women self reporting higher levels of happiness is that they are younger. A young woman retains high levels of fertility (beauty) so her life is often a big party of free attention. Older women who remain single do not report high levels of happiness. That data point changes with age.

43 Jeff December 27, 2016 at 2:06 am

Typical. Women are so solipsistic that they argue for or against something from their experience. Think Pauline Kael.

As women initiate most divorces, for whatever spurious reasons, your claim that ‘husbands appear to be quite proud of them’ has no bearing on the argument.

Women will not stay in a relationship where they have higher status than their mates.

44 Floccina December 22, 2016 at 4:04 pm

+1 for It would be interesting to see the descriptive statistics on the identity of plaintiff and defendant in these divorces.

45 Joël December 22, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Yes, but this statistics is just a proxy, and a poor one, for what interests us: who wants the divorce? In a civilized couple, if one person wants a divorce, the other agrees, and it is convenience, or chance, who determines who gets to be the plaintiff…

46 Art Deco December 22, 2016 at 8:45 pm

In a civilized couple, if one person wants a divorce, the other agrees,

It is atypical for divorces to occur by mutual agreement; one party wants out, the other does not. It is also atypical for plaintiffs to have grounds. Unilateral divorce on demand in the rule in this country, and, no, that is not civilized.

47 Tom West December 23, 2016 at 9:16 am

Art, in most cases of divorce that I’ve seen, the couple was having severe problems before, and when one party finally asked for divorce, the other party consented (agreed is probably not the correct term, but the ‘civilized’ response is to bow to the inevitable.)

As for grounds, we live in a society were we believe that no-one should be trapped in a lifetime of unhappiness, regardless of the promises that they may have made or the reason for that unhappiness. While dissolution of a marriage is tragic, I think that’s the more civilized of the two choices. (That groundless divorce also causes tragedy is undisputed, it’s, as always, a matter of which evil you think is less.)

48 Batou Kovacs December 31, 2016 at 11:54 am

Stop getting married retards. The whole point of the marriage contract was the exchange of women as property to assure peace between tribes. Women haven’t been property since they got the right to vote. In 2016, your marriage contract is worthless with regards to the female’s loyalty, sexual requirements, fitness as a mother, and economic responsibilities. The only thing it guarantees is she gets half of your current and future earnings if she walks away. The contract only makes the male a slave, who will be thrown into debtor’s prison if he doesn’t pay. A women who really loves you doesn’t need a marriage contract. She will be having so much fun you will need to beg to her stop giving blowjobs because your balls are sore.

49 Jan December 22, 2016 at 3:10 pm

If a woman’s efforts at work were going to affect her marriage, it would have happened well before she got to CEO.

50 JWatts December 22, 2016 at 4:11 pm

I would have thought that but,

“We show that promotions to top jobs dramatically increase women’s probability of divorce,”

51 GoneWithTheWind December 22, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Every married person man or woman will at some time in their marriage wish they had not married their husband/wife. They will want a divorce. If a man who is making a good living gets a divorce the courts will make sure he is reduced to poverty. If a woman is working and earning a low wage she too will likely endure some poverty as a result of the divorce. This juxtaposition of incomes means that as a woman increases her income she is more able to go for the divorce when that inevitable day comes that she realizes she married down. The opposite is true for the man. If they make minimum wage or get fired they are in a perfect position to divorce when that inevitable day arrives and they realize they are unhappy in their marriage.

So, women: If you want to stay married then don’t work or work infrequently and push your husband to do great things in his job. If on the other hand you really want out of the marriage get into the job market and work your way up to a living wage and when the time is right lose all that extra weight.

52 Alain December 22, 2016 at 4:13 pm

I do wonder if the courts are as harsh on high earning women as they are on high earning men.

53 Tom West December 23, 2016 at 9:22 am

Are there any jurisdictions in the developed world that don’t have standard rules for division of assets that are independent of gender?

At least in Canada it is extraordinarily rare for divorces to not use the formula in the event of a dispute (although adherence to the formula is not that common – most couples come to their own agreements). High profile cases get lots of publicity, but I don’t think they’re statistically noteworthy.

54 Troll me December 22, 2016 at 10:16 pm

I think you’re reading it a little wrong.

Maybe not so much that getting an executive job causes the man to divorce the women (although this might apply sometimes at least a bit in terms of whatever that means for intrahousehold bargaining, his ego, etc.). Rather, it is that it gives the woman more freedom to make that decision – her income is secure, etc.

55 Marry Up December 30, 2016 at 2:02 pm

When women marry up it is to gain status. Men marry down because men value looks over status. When a woman reaches greater status than her man, she is no longer as attracted to her man and wants to remarry up again. When a woman loses her looks…

56 Turkey Vulture December 22, 2016 at 4:14 pm

“dramatically increase women’s probability of divorce, but do not affect men’s marriages”

Sloppy wording in the latter clause, as the paper did not assess the totality of “men’s marriages.”

It is possible that men’s behavior changes, but that it was not measured. For instance, perhaps men cheat more as they rise through the ranks, and either (1) successfully hide it or (2) their wives are more likely to overlook the straying as the man gain’s stature.

Or perhaps men and women are both increasingly unfaithful as they climb the ladder, but men’s infidelity tends towards the short-term sexual relationship and women’s infidelity tends towards the longer-term and emotional, with the latter type leading to more divorce. Alternatively, perhaps men and women become increasingly unfaithful in the same way, but high-earning men are more deterred from divorce by our current Family Law than higher-earning women.

57 Noumenon72 December 23, 2016 at 6:17 pm

You are really smart and raise good points.

58 Jack December 22, 2016 at 6:29 pm

The US divorce laws provide a great incentive to the lower earning spouse to divorce. The stay at home dad working on his novel or his PhD in English lit or his golf swing married to a successful woman has the same incentives as the stay at home mom to divorce — depending on the state, half of the family wealth regardless of who created it, financial support to maintain his standard of living for a period of time or depending on the facts perhaps forever. Then add the children to the equation because they are worth big bucks to dad. If the lawyers get involved there is a good chance that the higher earner will pay it all regardless of fault. It is the best interests of the child you know. I am dubious that these incentives would affect men differently from woman — why should they? But I don’t understand big words and phrases like “exogenous” and “causally estimated,” and the phrase “gender inequality” strikes me as either as bs or a writer with an ax to grind — so I am not going to bother reading the article.

59 Cliff December 22, 2016 at 9:57 pm

“so I am not going to bother reading the article”


60 Troll me December 22, 2016 at 10:25 pm

It said “gender inequality” so you refuse to read it?

You must have some really importance perspective to share on issues of gender inequality then.

61 dearieme December 22, 2016 at 7:17 pm

I grinned. I assume that a paper related to sex, even if tangentially, that is purportedly written by “Olle Folke” is a leg-pull.

62 Mogden December 22, 2016 at 8:45 pm

Solution: the federal government should make it illegal to divorce a promoted woman.

63 Declaration of Disclosure December 22, 2016 at 8:50 pm

Camaur Crampton Family Law: services for divorce , child custody. Strategic representation by a top notch lawyer with the utmost skill & decades of

64 John de Rivaz December 23, 2016 at 6:19 am

On account of the fact that divorce lawyers punish the high earner as severely in the financial aspect as if they had committed a heinous crime, simple male greed may be part of the answer to this dilemma.

I do wonder why these laws prevail in democracies, and also why those involved in the “industry” don’t have to have permanent armed guards surrounding them for their personal safety. There are usually howls of protest from the general public over high profile cases with large transfers of wealth that get press coverage. I suspect that part of the answer is that people are a lot more docile than the impression given by press coverage of violent crime.

I saw it written somewhere that divorce lawyers try to put people in the same position as though the marriage hadn’t broken down (clearly impossible) whereas what most people consider justice would be better served if the couple were put in the same position as it the marriage hadn’t taken place. The latter would be easy if people’s health didn’t deteriorate with age and lifespans were indefinite (not necessarily infinite).

65 Tyler December 30, 2016 at 7:46 am

Women definitely deal with discrimination both at work and at home. Man usually don’t like a working woman, and employers don’t appreciate them enough. If you’re looking for a job where you’ll be respected and treated eaqually, here’s something to help you.

66 John de Rivaz December 30, 2016 at 8:02 am

As to “men usually don’t like a working woman”, with housing costing what it does, there must be a awful lot of frustrated men around.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: