The Economics Of Divorce

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 11 2012 1:11 PM

The Economics Of Divorce


These Pew stats on divorce that Kevin Drum highlights today (see fact sheet for more) are a good pretext for something I've been meaning to get off my chest for a while. When people look at income statistics, they often fail to explicitly account for the fact that there are tradeoffs between economic and non-economic aspects of life. From an income perspective, it's clear that most women who get divorced pay a meaningful financial penalty for it even before you consider the fact that there are a lot of economies of scale to cohabitation. But there's more to life than money, and people can be rationally willing to pay a hefty financial price to get out of a marriage that's making them unhappy.

At the same time, there are limits to the price people are willing to pay. So as you shift out of the Mad Men universe and into a realm of greater economic opportunities for women, one thing you'll see is more women voluntarily taking the plunge into income-reducing divorces. Only a very naive reading of the data would construe this as an actual decline in women's well-being. Rather, it's a manifestation of shifting from an unfair social paradigm to a less-unfair one. Now as the earnings gap between men and women has narrowed, we see that the highly gendered nature of the divorce penalty is going away, but the penalty is still out there. Taking the option of divorce away would make many economic statistics look superficially rosier, but would people actually be better off returning to 1950s social norms? I'm skeptical.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.