What makes a marriage hang together? A college education for the wife, for one thing; male offspring, for another, sociologists find.
Graham Spanier and several colleagues, analyzing census and other statistical data find that, as for several decades past, women with college degrees are less likely to get divorced than either women with only high school educations or women who have done graduate work.
The divorce rate among women with less than a high school education was 21 percent, but only 10 percent for college graduates. Women with a year of graduate work showed a divorce rate of 15 percent, and those with two years had a rate of 19 percent.
Well-educated black women were even more likely to be divorced than their white counterparts, the researchers found.
The explanation, in the case of the women with advanced training, appears straightforward enough -- better schooling leads to better jobs, more independence, career commitments that compete with marriage and confidence that if their marriage fails they can support themselves. And in the case of blacks, the husband can find his wife's education, and perhaps her earning power, a threat. Conversely, the wife may feel that her husband's lesser education costs her social status.
The researchers also found that couples with sons less likely to divorce then those with daughters. Where there is one child, a woman with a son is slightly more likely to stay married; where there are two children, women with two boys, or a boy and a girl, are much less likely to divorce than those with two daughters. This phenomenon is strongest among women with less than a high school education. Among college graduates it virtually disappears.