Study: African-American Women, Education & Divorce

Posted on Apr 26, 2013

A number of studies have shown in the past that the more educated a couple is, the less likely they are to divorce. However, a new divorce study conducted by researchers at Rutgers School of Social Work has found that African-American women are not as protected from divorce by their level of education—and that their rates of divorce are not falling at the same rate as white women in America. 

The study was conducted by assistant professor Jeounghee Kim and published in the newest issue of the journal Family Relations. It examined the marriages of both white and African-American women for a 25-year span between 1975 and 1999, focusing on which marriages lasted longer than nine years and did not end in either divorce or separation. 

The study found that white women have been enjoying better educations steadily over the years and a lowering divorce rate to match. However, although African-American women are also reaching higher levels of education than before, their education attainment peaked in the 1980s and their divorce and separation rate is not following the same pattern as the pool of white women. 

Why do researchers believe this pattern exists? The study’s author commented that education might protect marriage because it raises a woman’s earning power. Because a better education might not raise an African-American’s earning power in the same way, it may not affect the strength of the marriage. At the same time, African-American women are less likely to marry their educational equal and less likely to marry outside of their race. Both of these data points may also explain the differing divorce rates among black and white women with similar educational backgrounds. 

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