17 June 2007

Just another ideologically motivated assumption

Belabouring, for once, an earlier point.

Chris Dillow seems to think that increasing affluence is a principal cause of rising divorce rates.

... economic growth raises people's aspirations - it encourages the belief that you can have more, "because you're worth it." This in turn creates dissatisfaction, with the result that a wife with a mediocre spouse is less likely to stand by her man.
And, judging by the comments to my earlier post, James and Jeremy both seem to agree with him.

But where is the evidence, please?

1907 middle class: (a) fairly wealthy (servants, handmade furniture, private carriage), (b) attitude to divorce: conservative, (c) low divorce rate.

2007 middle class: (a) fairly wealthy (no servants, fancy holidays, two cars), (b) attitude to divorce: liberal, (c) high divorce rate.

Now this 'data' is not meant to prove anything. But to give some basis to the idea of a wealth-and-family-breakdown link you would have to show a correlation between affluence and divorce, having somehow stripped out the factor of changing social attitudes. Could I have a link to such research please? Because without it, this is just an opinion. And opinions, according to Chris, are "just worthless".


chris said...

Such research is unavailable, because affluence is (in both time-series and cross-sectional data) associated with different social attitudes. There just aren't enough cases of conservative social attitudes surviving the rise of affluence to permit a comparison.
I can only appeal to intuition. An affluent society today is one in which women have goodish job opportunities, which means it's feasible for them to live alone, which means divorce is more likely, cet. par.

Fabian Tassano said...

Okay, so it's an "intuition" rather than an "opinion".

My intuition is that women leaving marriages "because they're worth it" has more to do with the rise of feminism (and of pseudo-feminist philosophies such as "Grrrl power") than it does with economic growth. Not sure how we decide between those competing intuitions.

Whether women are better placed to be economically independent seems distinct, at least in theory, from what the level of national income is.