Tuesday, December 2, 2008

There's a 94% chance that my marriage will succeed!

I'm getting married next year, so I was intrigued when Justin Wolfers, writing in the Freakonomics blog, posted about a widget that calculates your risk for divorce.

The divorce calculator is based on research from Wolfers partner and frequent collaborator, Betsy Stevenson. One of the interesting trends that it highlights is that divorce risk varies greatly among different groups. Specifically, women with higher levels of education are much more likely to be married and stay married. Good news for me, as my fiance has a graduate degree.

In the past 30 years, there has been a shift from marriage as a division of labor (the 50's-style woman as homemaker and man as bread winner) to marriage as a matching of consumption patterns (both partners earn money and use it to enjoy their leasure time together)*. This is in part due to the increase in labor saving technologies that reduce the relative value of low-educated marriage partners. This, of course helps explain the differences in marriage rates by education level.

Of course, this presents a public policy dilemma. Stable families are a very strong predictor of student academic achievement. But education levels are a good predictor of family (more specifically marriage) stability. Clearly you can't address one problem without addressing the other.

*yes, my fiance loves it when I use econ-jargon to talk about marriage.

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