Statistician Nathan Yau recently examined data from the US Census Bureau’s 5-Year American Community Survey from 2015 and calculated which professions have the highest and lowest divorce rates. Want a stable marriage? Marry an actuary, a field that has a 17 per cent divorce rate. Gaming managers and bartenders have a less-terrific marital track record, however, at almost 53 per cent and 52 per cent, respectively.
Now one might think, well, bartenders are flirty, gregarious people and actuaries… might not be, so that stands to reason. But the Institute for Family Studies has taken a closer look at the data and offers a few thoughts on the topic. (First up, why are phlebotomists more stable, maritally speaking, than librarians?)
These researchers, Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, wanted to examine if this data tracks with what we already know about marriage and marital stability — namely that low-income people are less likely to get married, stay married, or report high levels of marital satisfaction. A happy, enduring marriage is increasingly a thing for well-off people.
Cahn and Carbone looked at the minimum levels of education and the median incomes for the 10 jobs most likely and least likely to divorce, and found that of the professions most likely to divorce, not one required more than a high school diploma (bartenders, gaming managers, flight attendants and so on). The 10 professions least likely to divorce (scientists, engineers, doctors, clergy) all required at least a bachelor’s degree. The professions most likely to divorce had a median income of less than $US35,000 ($44,837); the least likely to divorce (excluding clergy) had incomes of at least $US75,000 ($96,079). Also interesting: Job prospects for the most-likely-to-divorce professions are, as a whole, expected to decline, and job prospects for the least-likely-to-divorce crowd are on the upswing.
So this a story about class. The authors duly note that correlation is not causation; there is not necessarily anything inherent in the bartending profession that makes people get divorced. But they do raise an important topic for further research — why relationship stability and job prospects seem to go together — and go on to suggest that income instability might have more to do with marital instability than low income.
They write: “Commitment to a partner with an unstable income — someone who runs up the credit card bills, incurs large health care expenses, or needs to be bailed out of jail — can diminish family savings. The commitment marriage entails requires a willingness — legally, financially, and emotionally — to share the couple’s joint resources. For couples with unstable finances, this commitment may be a source of peril.”