The determinants of marital instability is an important area of research for demography, sociology and economics. A host of public policy outcomes are significantly affected by family breakdown. Yet we know little about the factors which currently determine marital longevity. This is attributable to inadequate data and statistical methodology. This paper improves our understanding of the issue through the use of rich longitudinal data and the application of advanced research approaches. Using data from waves 1–7 of HILDA, 2,482 married couples—where both partners are respondents in the first wave—are traced over six years to identify factors associated with marital instability. The data are analysed dyadically; that is, the characteristics of both partners in each couple are considered in tandem. This allows assessment of whether marriages between partners with similar characteristics (homogamy) are more likely to last than are marriages between dissimilar partners, or whether particular characteristics of wives or husbands—independent of their partners’—are more strongly associated with marital stability. Cox proportional hazards model with time-varying covariates is used to assess the association of characteristics with marital separation. We find the following factors are associated with higher risk of marital separation: large age difference between husband and wife, wife has a much stronger preference than her husband for a(nother) child, young age at marriage, separation of husband’s parents, resident children born before marriage, dissatisfaction with the relationship, low household income, husband is unemployed, wife drinks more than her husband, and one spouse smokes where the other does not.
Source: “What’s love got to do with it? Homogamy and dyadic approaches to understanding marital instability” from No 631, CEPR Discussion Papers from Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University