Socioeconomic Determinants of Divorce and Separation in South Korea: Revisit to Independence Hypothesis

Yean-Ju Lee, University of Hawaii at Honolulu

In the past decade, the “independency” hypothesis, which postulates that wives’ income increases the probability of divorce, has been widely refuted in the US literature. The hypothesis is based on the new home economics theory assuming that role specialization between husbands and wives in the market and household work, respectively, maximizes the benefit of marriage. In South Korea, divorce rates have sharply increased from the late 1990s reaching the crude divorce rate of 3.5 in 2003, closely following 4.1 of the United States. Evidence suggests that wives’ stable employment increases the chance of divorce or separation in South Korea. Using data from the first six waves of the Korean Labor and Income Panel Survey, conducted yearly from 1998 through 2003, this study will examine the detailed circumstances of how women’s employment or income affects the chance of divorce and discuss the implications.

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Presented in Session 62: Union Dissolution