Does Socioeconomic Status Impact the Likelihood of Divorce?

Money is a leading stressor in the typical American family. Your socioeconomic status has the potential to impact every facet of your life. Research suggests that the ever-increasing economic divide in today’s society has become even more impactful to married couples and families: It may even affect whether your marriage is more at risk of divorce.

How does socioeconomic status impact marriage?

Before the 1960s, divorce was uncommon. Couples married, had children, and, for the most part, stayed married for life.

In the 1960s, society began to focus more on social inequalities. We developed a broader understanding of how different people lived and the social and economic inequality between demographics. Our views of marriage also shifted, and cohabitation became more readily accepted. 

By the 1980s, working-class couples with lower incomes began to embrace cohabitation instead of marriage, whereas individuals with more significant financial resources began to delay marriage and childbearing in favor of furthering their education. 

Fast forward to today, where we see a great divide in the socioeconomics of marriage. Data from 2017 suggest that the majority of people aged 18 to 55 who are financially advantaged are married. In comparison, only a minority of those who are working-class or poor are married.

Social stressors and socioeconomic status

In the United States, we believe that we live in a classless society where everyone has an equal opportunity to improve their lives. But in reality, that has not proven to be altogether true. 

Our current social framework is more divided than ever into the economically challenged “have nots” and the “haves.”

While some American children are born into economic situations where getting a college degree and stable job security is easier, others are not so lucky. A child born into a lower social class may bear that burden throughout life. This burden may in turn impact their chance of marital satisfaction..

Today, money is one of the leading causes of marital dissolution in the U.S. While it’s hard to conclude whether your socioeconomic status will cause marital disruption, it’s helpful to look at each group’s risks from that perspective.

Risk of divorce for working-class families

Research has found that working-class and poorer families have a higher risk of divorce than families with more economic resources. 

When they did marry, 46% of poorer individuals and 41% of working-class adults experienced divorce. Compare this to the 30% divorce rate of their middle and upper-class counterparts, and you see a disparity.

According to national studies:

  • Poorer couples are more likely to have children before or outside of marriage.
  • Economically disadvantaged individuals are more likely to come from single-parent households that were also financially vulnerable.
  • In economically vulnerable families, family well-being suffers, leading to an increase in financial insecurity, food insecurity, and family life issues. 
  • Financial vulnerability leads to high family costs: worry, sadness, and anger.

Risk of divorce for wealthy families

While one might assume from studies that wealthier individuals are far less at risk of divorce than poorer people, the risks of divorce are not always financial. Wealthier couples have their own risk factors for divorce, both economic and not. 

  • Couples who are more affluent have greater financial freedom, so the cost of divorce may not be a concern. 
  • That said, they often have high expenses and may still suffer financial vulnerability.
  • Higher-earning spouses may spend long hours at work or have a job that requires travel, causing spouses to spend a great deal of time apart, putting a damper on relationship quality.

Current divorce statistics

Today, divorce statistics hover at around 40% across the board and have hit lows in the past few years. But while divorce rates have been trending downward, so have marriage rates. According to some estimations, marriage rates have declined in the United States by nearly 60% over the past 50 years. 

One theory for the decline in marital status and divorce rate was the aging population. Older individuals were thought to be less likely to divorce than middle-aged and young adults. But demographic research didn’t bear this out. Again, it seems to have partially boiled down to economics. Current marriages are taking place between people who are older and more highly educated. Poorer and less-educated individuals have been opting out of marriage altogether. 

In the widening chasm, marriage has become more stable but also more economically exclusive.

Common reasons given for divorce

Not all divorces are due to economic factors. According to a survey by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, the three most common reasons for divorce were basic incompatibility, infidelity, and money. While money is a common factor, there are many reasons that people choose to divorce. 

Not only has marriage changed throughout the decades, but so has divorce. Today, the old lawyer-up model is becoming less relevant. While divorce is difficult in the best of situations, most couples today prefer to divorce as amicably as possible and go their separate ways.

At Hello Divorce, we have simplified the divorce process to make this more possible by offering online divorce options and professional services. If you are considering divorce and are curious about whether this can work for you, schedule a free 15-minute call with us. 


American Psychological Association Survey Shows Money Stress Weighing on Americans’ Health Nationwide. American Psychological Association (APA).
The Marriage Divide: How and Why Working-class Families Are More Fragile Today. American Enterprise Institute.
Socioeconomic Status and Intimate Relationships. National Library of Medicine.
Well-Being and Stability among Low-income Families: A 10-Year Review of Research. National Library of Medicine.
The high costs of being poor in America: Stress, pain, and worry. Brookings Institution.
Marriage: More Than a Century of Change. Bowling Green State University.
Survey: Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) professionals Reveal the Leading Causes of Divorce. Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts.
Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.