The jobs for divorce

Overcoming Bias blog reports on an interesting American study of divorce rates by occupation. It found, among other things, that

Dancers and choreographers registered the highest divorce rates (43.1 percent), followed by bartenders (38.4 percent) and massage therapists (38.2 percent). … Three types of engineers — agricultural, sales and nuclear engineers — were represented among the 10 occupations with the lowest divorce rates.

Using 2006 census data for people aged 30 to 49 years I found that there were very similar patterns here. Of the groups I examined bar attendants and baristas were the most divorced or separated, with massage therapists second, and actors and dancers fourth.

As in the US, engineers were among the least likely to divorce, with accountants and solictors only slightly more prone to marital breakdown.

Class background and financial situation probably explains some of the differences. But plumbers, bricklayers and carpenters have slightly more stable marriages than psychologists and human resource professionals.

For most occupations, there is a general approach to marriage – those most likely to divorce are generally also least likely to get married in the first place (a negative correlation of about .75 between divorce rates and marriage rates).

I think personality types may explain some of these differences. The stable, sober, and methodical people who become engineers or accountants apply the same approach to their relationships. All the high-divorce occupations are people-oriented, and more likely to be populated be extroverts who go with their emotions. The kinds of jobs they seek may also provide more opportunities for short-term liaisons that are destabilising for long-term relationships.

6 thoughts on “The jobs for divorce

  1. Catholics account for about a quarter of the population (in 2006) and apparently 50% of churchgoers in any given week (in 2001). Their ministers, as everyone knows, are almost invariably celibate (i.e. unmarried).

    But only 12% of ministers of religion are never married! And I presume at least some ministers in other religions never get married. So does that category exclude Catholic priests for some reason, or do Catholics have significantly less ministers-per-person/-churchgoers than other religions, or do I misunderstand the statistic?

    I would also suggest that I think bar attendants and baristas and waiters and entertainers are probably more likely to be younger, whereas there’s probably much less age-skew in engineers. Might this account for some of the difference between %married, or is that statistic somehow age-weighted?


  2. Alexander – Yes, that figure does look odd. The main cause is my decision to limit the age range to 30-49 (an expedient decision caused by the way the data source is organised). Two-thirds of Catholic ministers of religion in the census are aged 50 or more. Catholics are only 7% of all recorded ministers of religion in the 30-49 age group.

    But maybe there is a problem with the data. Religion is an optional question on the census so there could be Catholic priests who did not identify. There are only 1,541 recorded across all age groups which seems too low. Also 12% are recorded as being married. Is there some provision for married converts to stay married?


  3. Also the occupations you mention have similar age profiles when measured in 30s as a proportion of the total. That does not rule out younger average ages, which could narrow the differences in a more sophisticated analysis. However the raw numbers differences are so large that it is very unlikely that there is no real difference between the groups.


  4. If a non-Catholic minister is married, and is found suitable for the priesthood, he can be ordained as a Catholic priest despite being married. Certainly Catholics don’t allow divorce, so you they have to “stay married” 🙂 But I gather there’s only been three or four of them in Australia.

    There’s also Eastern Catholic Churches which are theologically Catholic (including the pope stuff), but follow the rules of the Eastern Orthodox, so married men get be ordained priests there, too. But there’s only a few thousand of them (including laity) in Australia.

    I would be seriously surprised if married Catholic priests could account for 12% of all Catholic priests in Australia. There must be a large number of unmarried priests who didn’t reply the expected way.


  5. Alexander – The number of Catholic priests appears to be about double the number recorded in the census, so pretty clearly the census is not giving us a clear picture of what is going on.


  6. This is interesting. I thought that lawyers would have a much higher divorce rate relative to others, given reports about their alleged unhappiness – related to spending their working lives involved in zero sum games.

    The results suggest to me that the nature of the work involved in the occupations with highest divorce rates is such that people in those occupations are more likely to being propositioned by their clients.


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