Way back in 1964, when those four grinning moptops (known in limited circles as The Beatles) crooned "Can't buy me love," media, fans and critics furiously debated the song's meaning. And while it's likely that some of the speculation was pretty far out -- it was the 60s, after all -- there is no doubt whatsoever that anyone, anywhere, at any time and in any way suggested that the unkempt Liverpudlians were predicting divorce trends in 2010.
But hey: score one more prescient point for the Beatles, because they were right on the money (yes, regrettably, pun intended).
Here's the scoop: in a 25-year study that will be published in October's issue of the Journal of Family Issues,
researchers at Western Washington University observed that, among
2,500 women married between 1979 and 2002, those who brought home
60% or more of their household income were 40% more likely to
divorce than women earned less.
And, perhaps most surprisingly, was that it didn't matter how much the wives earned relative to their husbands. She could earn $50,000 while he earned $30,000, or she could earn $150,000 while he earned $100,000. What mattered was the ratio -- 60% or more -- and not the actual dollar amount.
So what's behind all this breadwinning gloom and doom? Western Washington University Sociologist Jay Teachman has a few ideas:
Teachman admitted that pointing to a unqualified"cause and
effect" link remains elusive, because it's unclear whether the marriage
itself, or the wife's ambition to get a better job (and/or the
husband's negative reaction to that), are triggers for the marriage
problems. However, the lack of a clear-cut cause doesn't
invalidate the surprising discovery that a woman's earning power is a strong factor in divorce.
Teachmen isn't sure how the study will evolve, but has expressed a desire to try the study again in 10 years with a younger pool of wives. "The group of women [in the study] are the last generation, who may not have expected to have the careers they ended up having," he stated.
And who knows? Maybe that next study will be all the Beatles need to form a reunion tour, headlined by their smash new single Can Buy me a Divorce.
What it lacks in appeal and romance it's sure to make up for by being on every sociologist's iPod from here to Liverpool.
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