Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Standard of Living After Divorce

There has been a widely circulated (though completely erroneous) statistic that says after a divorce women suffered from a 73% decrease in standard of living while men enjoyed a 43% increase in their standard of living. We all have Lenore Weitzman and her book The Divorce Revolution to thank for this nugget.

Even though years ago this discrepancy was found to be due to a computer error - efforts are still being made to debunk this assertion. For example (source info here) David Popenoe (a feminist masquerading as a impartial proponent of marriage and fatherhood - author of (among others) Life Without Father: Compelling New Evidence that Fatherhood and Marriage are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society - sounds good, right? Think again) attempts to clarify the issue like this:

5. Myth: Following divorce, the woman's standard of living plummets by 73 percent while that of the man's improves by 42 percent.

Fact: This dramatic inequity, one of the most widely publicized statistics from the social sciences, was later found to be based on a faulty calculation. A reanalysis of the data determined that the woman's loss was 27 percent while the man's gain was 10 percent. Irrespective of the magnitude of the differences, the gender gap is real and seems not to have narrowed much in recent decades.

Unfortunately, even that information looks to be incorrect, due largely in part to using an extremely small and unrepresentative sample of people.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Lenore Weitzman takes a very comprehensive look at this entire issue. From a sample of roughly 7,500 people (compared to Weitzman's > 300 sample), "According to their data, women in the first year after divorce experience on average a 22 percent decline in family income, with professional women's family incomes declining the least (12 percent) and unskilled laborers declining the most (30 percent). Instead of the 42 percent increase reported by Weitzman or the more common 10 percent figure, the data indicated an average 10 percent decrease in income, with professional men experiencing a decline of 8 percent and less-educated workers a drop of 19 percent."

Weitzman touted this finding all over the country, all while refusing to allow anyone to inspect her data. "Her figures were cited in over 170 newspaper and magazine articles, 350 social science articles, 250 law review articles, 24 state appellate and supreme court cases, and one U.S. Supreme Court decision. The American Sociological Association awarded The Divorce Revolution its 1986 Book Award for "Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship." Weitzman repeated the statistic when she testified before the U.S. Congress, and legislatures across the nation revisited their divorce laws in response to her claims. (Weitzman herself takes credit for influencing 14 laws in California alone.) The attention culminated with the statistic's appearance in President Clinton's 1996 budget proposal."

The article goes on to highlight other "discrepancies" in Weitzman's data - very interesting read - and extremely depressing all at the same time. Most frightening that these stats were cited so widely and used as justification for increased child support.

As an aside, David Popenoe also wrote this in the article linked above:

10. Myth: It is usually men who initiate divorce proceedings.

Fact: Two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women. One recent study found that many of the reasons for this have to do with the nature of our divorce laws. For example, in most states women have a good chance of receiving custody of their children. Because women more strongly want to keep their children with them, in states where there is a presumption of shared custody with the husband the percentage of women who initiate divorces is much lower. Also, the higher rate of women initiators is probably due to the fact that men are more likely to be "badly behaved." Husbands, for example, are more likely than wives to have problems with drinking, drug abuse, and infidelity.

Although Popenoe is presenting factual information about divorce initiation - and just for a second you think he might do the right thing by talking family courts to task - he then reverts back to the same feminist BS. What facts does Mr. Popenoe have to demonstrate that mothers "more strongly" want to keep their children with them or that fathers are more prone to "bad behavior." If he has any, he certainly did not cite it. I am not sure how you qualify "strong feelings to keep your child with you." When I read men who write about divorce in this fashion I always have the same thought- God help them if their wives ever decided to split.

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