Women, Work, and Divorce

By Richard R. Peterson

Subjects: Sociology Of Work
Series: SUNY series in the Sociology of Work and Organizations
Paperback : 9780887068591, 179 pages, March 1989
Hardcover : 9780887068584, 179 pages, March 1989

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Tables

List of Figures


1. Women, Work, and Divorce

1.1 Introduction
1.2 The Effect of Divorce on Women's Economic Well-Being
1.3 The Effect of Divorce on Women's Position in the Labor Market
1.4 Models of Women's Labor Market Outcomes: Individualist Approaches
1.5 Models of Women's Labor Market Outcomes: Labor Market Segmentation Approaches
1.6 Overview of the Study

2. Data and Measurement Issues

2.1 The National Longitudinal Surveys of Mature Women
2.2 Sample Attrition, 1967-1977
2.3 Description of Measures Employed in the Study
2.4 Analytic Issues

3. Overview of the Economic Effects of Divorce

3.1 Labor Supply
3.2 Personal Income
3.3 Economic Well-Being
3.4 Summary

4. Labor Supply

4.1 Introduction: Economic Models of Labor Supply
4.2 Effects of Marital History on Labor Force Participation
4.3 Explanatory Models of Labor Force Participation
4.4 Effects of Marital History on Annual Hours
4.5 Explanatory Models of Annual Hours
4.6 Summary of Findings on Labor Supply

5. Personal Income

5.1 Effects of Marital History on Annual Earnings
5.2 Explanatory Models of Annual Earnings
5.3 Effects of Marital History on Hourly Wage
5.4 Explanatory Models of Hourly Wage
5.5 Discussion of Findings on Personal Income

6. Determinants of Economic Well-Being Among Divorced Women

6.1 Introduction: Developments of a Life-Course Model
6.2 Explanatory Model of Income/Needs Ratio
6.3 Explanatory Model of Poverty Status
6.4 Explanatory Model of Public Assistance Status
6.5 Discussion of Findings on Economic Well-Being

7. Conclusion

7.1 Individualist and Structural Explanations of Labor Market Outcomes
7.2 Work-Family Linkages over the Life Course
7.3 The Long-Term Consequences of Divorce
7.4 Changing Gender Roles - A Generation in Transition

Appendix A: Description of Variables Employed in the Analysis

A.1 Dependent Variables
A.2 Race
A.3 Labor Market Segmentation Variables
A.4 Human Capital Variables
A.5 Family Role Variables
A.6 Work Orientation Measure

Appendix B: Descriptive Statistics for Variables Employed in the Analysis

Appendix C: Descriptive Statistics for Variables by Marital History

Appendix D: Corrections for Selection Bias


D.1 Selection Bias with Respect to Labor Force Participation
D.2 Selection Bias with Respect to Marital History






This book considers how women cope with the economic hardship which accompanies divorce, using national longitudinal data on a generation of women in the United States. These women came of age at a time when they were expected to give priority to family roles over work roles. Yet by the time many of them were divorced in the 1970s, with the climate of changing perceptions of gender roles, women were expected to work, and were unprepared for the economic disruption caused by divorce. Peterson analyzes the experiences of women drawing upon sociological and economic approaches to the study of labor market outcomes, and of life-cycle events. He shows how over the long term most divorced women can make at least a partial recovery, but divorced women with children have a more difficult time making work adjustments, and experience greater economic deprivation. Given the continuing high rates of divorce, Peterson's findings highlight the importance of work rather than marriage for women's economic security.

Richard R. Peterson is Assistant Director of the Center for Applied Social Science Research at New York University.


"Many have speculated about reasons for labor market participation differences and wage differences between women with different marital statuses. Divorced women rather than married women have higher rates of participation and higher wages...Peterson's careful analysis that employs national data provides the explanation. The analysis is absolutely first rate. There are some unexpected results: there is a polarization of divorced women; children have less impact on earnings than expected; divorce improves the position of women who work...the book has important findings, some of which will be controversial." — Judith Blau, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill