Divorce can be a pivotal, life-altering event in children’s lives that can cause the social stigma of divorce but also their social status and financial future.

Economic Mobility for Children of Divorce

Industry research consistently reveals that children of divorce have high potential for rockier futures. They are less likely than kids with intact families to finish school and have higher instances of delinquency and deviant behavior. In fact, children are 44 percent more likely to graduate college when they have married parents, according to W. Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Without a higher education, earning capacity will be lower which could threaten their financial futures. For affluent families, the risk of downward economic mobility is even more of a threat.

Kids that are born to wealthy parents who go through divorce tend to suffer a loss of social standing for these reasons.

  • A parent that supplied them with funds to partake in certain clubs or events stops funding those activities
  • They move into different income brackets from their friends
  • Standard of living generally becomes lower


According to the a study by Pew’s Economic Mobility Project, “Children from the top third of the income distribution are markedly less likely to maintain their station in life as adults if their parents divorce.”

However, adverse economic outcomes can occur across the board for children of divorce. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, only 26 percent of the children from families in the bottom third of income distribution rose to the middle or top third in adulthood. Comparatively, 50 percent of children whose parents stay married rise to the middle or top third.  Similarly 74 percent of children of divorce exceed their parents’ income during adulthood, compared to 90 percent of children of intact families. In other words, “divorce is particularly harmful to children's mobility,” concludes The Pew.

The Resiliency of Children

Regardless of the potential effects a divorce on children’s financial futures, divorce and changing dynamics are a reality that many families must face. “Staying together for the kids” is neither practical nor healthy in toxic relationships. And children – both from wealthy and low-income families – are resilient beings who can learn to cope and rise above challenges.

Matt Yglesias, the econoblogger for Slate stated, “My anecdotal experience growing up in affluent circles in Manhattan was that parental marriage disruption is very hard on kids, even on rich kids. But that's hard meaning that it's sad, not meaning that it's a substantial barrier to the kids going to college and maintaining a high socioeconomic status.”

With conscious and loving parenting, children can excel in life, regardless of their parents’ marital status. For parents going through a divorce, feel free to download Molly B. Kenny’s free divorce eBook: Keeping Your High Schooler on Track during Conflict.

To learn what to do before filing for divorce, contact the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny to schedule a consult: (425) 460-0550.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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