The reversal of the gender gap in education and relative divorce risks: a matter of alternatives?

André Grow, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Jan Van Bavel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Christine Schnor, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Recent empirical evidence suggests that the reversal of the gender gap in education was associated with changes in relative divorce risks: marriages in which the wife was more educated than the husband used to have a higher divorce risk than when the husband was more educated, but this difference disappeared. One interpretation in the literature holds that this might be a consequence of cultural change, involving increasing social acceptance of hypogamy. We propose an alternative mechanism that need not presuppose cultural change: the gender-gap reversal in education has changed the availability of marital alternatives for highly educated women and men. This may have lowered the likelihood that women leave husbands with less education and stimulated men to leave less educated spouses. We apply an agent-based model to 12 European national marriage markets to illustrate that this mechanism is sufficient to explain the convergence in divorce risks.

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Presented in Session 8: Assortative mating