Campus: CSU Sacramento -- October 22, 2001
Study Refutes Money-Divorce Link Says Researcher at CSU
When the vows break, don't blame it on financial problems. Money is not
the number one cause of divorce, says a researcher at California State
Contrary to popular belief, there's no evidence that money issues are
the major factor when marriages break up, says Jan Andersen, a CSUS family
and consumer sciences professor. He presented his findings last week at
the Western Region Home Management Family Economic Educators conference.
It's a misconception with staying power. "When I ask students why
it's important to study personal and family finance, invariably someone
answers, 'Because money is the number one cause of divorce,'" Andersen
says. "I had heard that in seminars and read articles that quoted
it. But I realized I had never seen any evidence to back it, so I decided
to look into it further," he says.
What he found is that no research supports the assumption beyond a 1950s
study where "nonsupport" was ranked as the number one cause.
Otherwise money was never cited as higher than fourth or fifth.
For his own research, Andersen looked at a national database of more than
2,000 husband and wife households. The data was collected over a 12-year
period from 1980-92 in interviews conducted in 1980, 1983, 1988 and 1992.
Andersen zeroed in on questions related to money to see if financial trouble
in one time period predicted the likelihood of divorce in a future time
The result - as predictors of divorce, financial problems are useless,
he says. "It was a non-finding that was quite interesting. Financial
problems never explained more than five percent of the variability in
"If financial problems are so important, there would have been a
stronger relationship. They appear to be merely a small part of the mix."
Andersen admits that more research needs to be done to determine if other
factors played a role in the results. But, he says, "Perhaps financial
problems are no longer the 'real' cause of divorce." Andersen speculates
that financial issues may not be as important as they once were when the
husband was expected to be the sole breadwinner. The 1950s study used
1948 data from women only and focused on what was important in post-WWII
America. At that time "nonsupport," meaning the husband did
not bring home enough money for basic expenses, was cited as the number
one cause of divorce. Now, Andersen says, both spouses have expectations
of bringing in money.
"Or, perhaps, financial problems were never a major factor in most
divorces, but were cited by respondents in earlier studies because they
were legally or socially acceptable reasons for divorce," he says.
Andersen is working on a follow-up study that will include additional
information on credit, debt and assets. He hopes to have results by summer.
More information and copies of Andersen's study are available by calling
the public affairs office at (916) 278-6156.