Low-Divorce Jobs

A recent study … explores the correlation of various occupations and rates of separation and divorce. … Dancers and choreographers registered the highest divorce rates (43.1 percent), followed by bartenders (38.4 percent) and massage therapists (38.2 percent). Also in the top 10 were casino workers, telephone operators, nurses and home health aides.  Three types of engineers — agricultural, sales and nuclear engineers — were represented among the 10 occupations with the lowest divorce rates. Also reporting low marital breakup rates were optometrists (4 percent), clergy (5.6 percent) and podiatrists (6.8 percent). (more)

The study takes a simple regression predicting the “divorced” rate (% of once-married folks now divorced or separated) from income, age, gender, and race, and then for 500 different jobs collects a table of its actual divorce rate, the rate predicted by this regression, and the ratio between these two rates. (Yes these stats ignore remarried folks, but they still seem informative.)

Before you browse their divorce rate vs. job table to see what it says about your job, ask yourself: what do you infer about people who do a job associated with a low divorce rate?  Are you impressed and attracted by their reliability, or do you snicker that they are losers no one wants to tempt away from their marriage? How do you think most folks react?

OK, here the ten jobs with the highest relative divorce rates: massage therapists, bartenders, dancers and choreographers, health diagnosing and treating practitioners (all other), physicians and surgeons, gaming services workers, mathematicians, fish and game wardens, pile-driver operators, and first-line supervisor of gaming workers.

Here are the ten jobs with the lowest relative divorce rates: religious workers (all other), audiologists, first-line enlisted military supervisors/managers, shuttle car operators, optometrists, clergy, transit and railroad police, religious activities and education directors, agricultural engineers, and media and communication equipment workers (all other).

For comparison, here’s jobs ranked by their 1900 divorce rate:

My relative risk of divorce was 0.90 as a computer software engineers, and is now 0.92 as a postsecondary teacher, but is 1.27 as an economist.

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  • William Barghest

    High divorce professions as opposed to low divorce professions seem to either involve emotional expression and or access to larger numbers of people of the opposite gender. Travel also seems to be a large factor.

    I view divorce as irresponsible.

  • These ratios seem to follow nice Bell curve, with not many professions outside 4:3 to 3:4 range. Even actors get only 1.3 RR.

    I somehow expected a lot more variability.

  • Wasn’t divorce extremely rare in 1900, making the list for then basically random?

    • josh

      It was rarer in some populations than others making the results not random.

    • texastom

      Divorce is a shewed way to look at marriage to multiple partners. In the 1900s about 66% of married couples had multiple partners. Death was the major contributor. This changed beginning with the 20th century when the death rate substantially declined. Thus, the only way men and women could have multiple partners in the 20th century was thru divorce.

      • Were you trying to write “shrewd” or “skewed”, it makes a big difference in your comment.

  • Brian Shelley

    Noticing that the three religious professions are near the very bottom, this brings up a question I was hoping someone might reply to.

    Data show that church attending Christians are no less likely to divorce. Is this possibly a selection bias? People with marital problems or other life stressers seek out church more than those without problems.

    • Jayson Virissimo

      Data show that church attending Christians are no less likely to divorce.

      What data are you referring to? Last time I looked at the General Social Survey, people that attended church regularly had lower divorce rates. Interestingly, I was taught in Christian high school that Christians are no less likely to divorce than nonbelievers.

      • Brian Shelley

        I suppose I had just heard it quoted so many times I assumed it was true. Thanks.

    • Andy

      I would say church professionals such as pastors are not the same as church goers who can be one of the many professions listed above. I don’t think there is much selection bias in that.

    • VeryAnon
    • Matt

      That’s a bit of an urban legend in Christian circles. The surveys which show that Christians are more likely than non-Christian go like this:

      1. Are you a Christian?
      2. Are you divorced?

      When just asked about whether they’re Christian, those in the lower income brackets will near uniformly say their Christian. Non-Christians, for their part, typically have higher incomes and they typically marry later in life. cohabiting instead of marrying when they’re younger.

      When you ask, though, how involved they are in a church, how often they read the Bible, etc., the divorce rates plunge into the single digits if I recall correctly. My personal experience confirms this. While couples heavily involved in the Church sometimes divorce, in my experience it actually is relatively rare compared to the number who stay together.

  • James

    I think you meant “dancers” rather than “cancers.”

  • Ted Craig

    When you drill down into that data you find folks who attend church weekly do indeed have a much lower divorce rate than average. Clergy, of course, fall into that category.

  • Neal

    Isn’t it pretty clear that certain jobs will attract people at risk for divorce (e.g., emotionally high-maintenance) or be correlated with high-risk factors (e.g., poverty/high-stress/travel) and others will attract people not at risk for divorce (e.g., routine-oriented, dedicated) or be correlated with low-risk factors (e.g., stable, middle-class pay)?

  • R

    How are mathematicians in the top 10?! Last I checked no emotional expression was necessary. Maybe too little emotional expression induces the spouse to leave? -Happily married mathematician

    • Deniz

      Dear R,

      Mathematics is deeply emotional for many. Good mathematicians solve problems no one could solve before — this is usually an act of creativity, rather than knowledge or smarts. There are many smart people who can’t seem to solve previously unsolved problems.

      Mathematicians rank high in suicide as well, up there with artists & dentists.

  • Carol

    Should this study have been about divorces or people in occupations who get married without really knowing their spouse?? Just a thought…

  • JS Allen

    This data seems to contradict everything I’ve heard about churchgoers and clergy — I thought they got divorced at the same rate as everyone else.

  • Matt Flipago

    Very surprised about the mathematician on. Maybe the spouses wanted them to get a job that paid more, but I’ve seen many studies which rank mathematicians as a very good job. More perplexing is that physical scientist were near the very bottom. I wouldn’t expect them to be very far apart. And even more perplexing is Statisticians are also near the bottom. So Statisticians, married, but Mathematicians divorced, that is a curve ball I didn’t see coming. But I guess those Mathematicians are just a statistic. 🙂

  • Nate

    It is bizarre that mathematicians have divorce rates so much higher than statisticians or physical scientists. I didn’t delve into the study, but it might just be small sample sizes for those professions.

    I would have guessed that long years of grad school, postdoctoral work and unenured junior faculty (all at far less pay than they can make in the private sector) would take their toll on the scientists’ marriages, but I see no reason why it should be so much worse for mathematicians.

    • Dog of Justice

      “Mathematicians” may be a substantially more idealistic set than “statisticians” or “physical scientists”.

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  • Martienne

    Was military not even considered here? The divorce rate is sky high among soldiers right now!

    • J

      Martienne, that is an excellent point about the military, My other thought about the article and the numbers. Did they look at how many households were one or two income families. I understand the complexity of running surveys, one reason I am not a fan of statistics, however, what was the occupation of the other spouse.

      What is the divorce rate for stay-at-home moms? I am sure that number would rank somewhere up towards the top.

  • Curious

    What is a “sales engineer”?

    And regarding physicians, I guess “Grey’s Anatomy” is fairly realistic!

    • Robert Koslover

      A sales engineer is essentially a salesman with technical knowledge and training (and sometimes a degree in engineering) in the details of the products offered by a company or organization. Sales engineers provide customers (who are themselves typically engineers or other technically-skilled individuals) with useful technical information about the company’s products, and discuss the technical application of those products, to help customers make intelligent choices about what to buy and what to expect from those products. For example, suppose you were considering buying a new electron microscope for your lab. Somewhere in the product researching/purchasing process, you would very likely speak to one or more sales engineers.

  • Eneasz

    This appears to simply be noise. There isn’t any correlation between jobs and divorce rate. Take some stereotypes, add confirmation bias and anomaly-hunting, and maybe you can force a pattern, but there isn’t anything that emerges from this on it’s own merits.

  • David C

    From the chart, it seems if you work weird hours, then you’re more likely to get divorced.

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  • My kneejerk reaction is that the people near the top tend to be, on average, the most desirable to your random person. Therefore they are more likely to get teased out of relationships. Actors tend to be more attractive than clergymen, by a long shot.

    • J

      Kudos Michael for the kneejerk, how is the chin? But, my first response is that it not being based on looks. But rather that actors are a bit more egocentric and their view of the world revolving around themselves is a bit myoptic. As for clergy, well… you do the comparison

  • ShardPhoenix

    Michael Anissimov:
    If you think that, then according to the modern-day chart, pile-driver operators, casino workers, brokerage clerks, etc, should be more attractive than actors.

    As for mathematicians vs. statisticians and physicists, that just confirms my pop-culture stereotype that pure mathematicians are crazy :P. (Aren’t they also more likely to be religious than eg physicists?)

  • TG

    Mathematicians–broadly speaking–are more likely to be high-functioning autistics (e.g. have Asperger’s) than people in other professions. People with Asperger’s and other ASDs are also more likely to have unsuccessful relationships and higher divorce rates. Makes perfect sense to me.

    • disagree.

      Autism-spectrum people are likely to be mathematicians, true, but they are also significantly more likely than average to be engineers, or natural scientists who work mostly in theory, or people who work with computer systems, but the chart shows that the professions that attract autistics are all over the map, not all hovering near the top (in the bottom 20 I can see 4 or 5 sorts of engineers, “nuclear technicians” and “computer hardware engineers” also near the bottom, etc.)

      When you take into account that autistic individuals, relatively rare as they are, are mostly not likely to ever be married (I don’t know the exact figure but I recall something like 30% for men and 33% for women, since even intelligent capable independent individuals like Temple Grandin have too much trouble to want to start relationships) I think its pretty unlikely that ASD or Asperger Syndrome types are much affecting these numbers.

      • Jehu

        In my experience, engineers are very likely to be married and to have significantly more children than people with pure science degrees. Not sure why this is so—maybe it has something to do with tenure track/publish or perish or the fact that a Bachelors is a perfectly adequate working degree, as is a Masters in the various engineering fields?
        In the little band of engineers I work with, all but one are married and the average number of children among the married is a little north of 2. Most are Phd’s, with a few with Masters degrees.

  • Charles

    Your links are dead. They ask for a password and say “Access is limited to current Mason students, faculty and staff.” Very bad form, posting passworded links on a public blog.

  • Les Cargill

    This entire thread ignores an old joke, which is closer to the truth:

    Q: Why is divorce expensive?
    A: Because it’s worth it.

    Meaning that controlling longitudinally for income probably works better.

  • Ken Pidcock

    I’m amused by the discussion of religiosity on this thread. Biological scientists, 439. There is no occupation that is more predictive of atheism.

    • Ted Craig

      I’m amused that you seem to be missing the point.

  • bellisaurius

    It looks like that for the health and mathematics types, the predicted divorce rate is pretty low, so that while they exceed the expected number, the overall rate is still pretty low. For example, the predicted divorce rate for mathematicians is 11%, and the actual divorce rate is 19%. A decent percentage jump, but below the 30 and 40% divorce rates that they’re next to on the list. Doctors are even more strange, with a predicted 5% rate, 9% actual.

    I’m sure there might be some explanation for the mathematicians with the aspergers, but other groups that would seem similar, like physicists, do OK with 11% expected and 11% actual, and engineers are hardly normal folks, but they do very well. This one could just be data scatter.

    Otherwise, it feels like something’s going on inside the numbers, but it’s really just set me up for wondering about the next question in line: who mates with who?

  • London

    I think most people here are paying too much attention to mathematicians. What you’re looking at is not actually a terribly useful statistic, because you’re looking at the ratio between an empirical data point and the prediction of a model, at a level of granularity that the model isn’t really designed to capture. Inspection of the employment categories suggests that there is no precise heuristic for allocating a given person to a given employment category, so to some extent these highly granular categories are meaningless. (If there is a precise mechanism for category allocation, I’d be interested to learn about it.)

    The model itself presumably finds a negative correlation between income and probability of divorce, and the race dummy variable(?s?) presumably give(s) the “stereotypical” result. I need to think more clearly about the gender variable, because I don’t understand gender at a social level (I’m a gay male aspie). I don’t have any expectations about the age variable, and would be interested to know the sign of the coeffiecient. It would also be useful to have some sort of breakdown of the proportion of variability explained by the various explanatory variables. I’d also like to know the significance of the numbers in column A of the spreadsheet (they appear to be similar but not identical to column F).

    Anyway, the more I think about it the more I think that the ratio that is exciting so much comment here is broadly unhelpful. First, I strongly suspect that the categorisation is not well-enough defined. Second, although possibly illuminating as a tool for highlighting possible directions for extending the model, the ratio itself is meaningless, as levels of granularity of the numerator and denominator are different.

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  • What a fun generator of insta-theories this is!

    Chatting with a friend I’m told that the data is taken from the census and it is “currently divorced,” rather than “has been divorced.” Which may imply that we are looking at a list of professions for whom the divorced state is sticky. Maybe those mathematicians and game wardens have trouble finding a new spouse; while some of the other professions are like “how needs it?”

  • A mathematician

    A poet, a priest, and a lawyer are discussing whether it’s better to have a wife or a mistress.

    The poet argues that it’s better to have a mistress because love should be free and spontaneous.

    The priest argues that it’s better to have a wife because love should be sanctified by God.

    The mathematician says, “I think it’s better to have both. That way, when each of them thinks you’re with the other, you can do some mathematics.”

  • Interesting study. I would say though that the jobs ranked highest are those that would require a more social person exposing them to lots of people therefore allowing for the temptation of an affair. Those less likely to divorce are careers where people would not necessarily be exposed to temptation.

  • LadyH

    The high likelihood jobs share the characteristic of having irregular hours in many cases. Shift work in particular is associated with ill health and stress ion anycase and presumaly disrupts family life while anyone who has ever worked in catering, well, its a free for all.

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  • ML

    Looking at the spreadsheet, it looks like it is improperly parsed, as there is a number following each occupation and column B is empty.

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  • gbz

    cant help but feel that the rankings would be almost identical if the professions were ranked on a scale of median political leanings from liberal at the top to conservative at the bottom..

  • Scott

    Not an interesting study. This is an observational study, not an experiment. People that choose to work at one type of job (say one with higher divorce rates) are different in many ways from those that don’t. This is basic comparative science (Statistics)… you can’t say that Job A is “(more likely to) cause” divorce than Job B, when the people in Job A differ systematically from those in Job B.

    For the same reason, it took decades for scientists to conclude forcefully that smoking “causes” cancer in humans: people that smoke have different diets, different lifestyle habits, different sleeping habits… it’s hard to conclude that smoking causes the difference in cancer rates until you spend lots of time and energy “adjusting” for the confounding factors. That obviously can’t have been done in this case.

  • lee

    I don’t recall seeing anything about numbers in this study. How many people in the various jobs or professions were surveyed?
    Also, some important professions appear to be missing. I have read statistics which say that police officers have high divorce rates but I do not see them listed.
    I expect that in the social circles of churches, divorce would be frowned upon, therefore people would be under more social pressure to stay with their spouse. This would be particularly true of clergy. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the marriages are happy or successful.

  • Fitty Stim

    The data is being interpreted wrongly and the professions listed by the author as high and low divorce rates are not correct. The table is sorted by RATIO TO PREDICTED

    If the table is sorted by ACTUAL DIVORCE RATE then the top five are:

    1. Dancers (43%)
    2. Bartenders (38%)
    3. Massage therapists (38%)
    4. Gaming cage workers (35%)
    5. Extruding and forming machine setters (33%)

    the bottom five are:

    507. Clergy (6%)
    508. Transit and railroad police (5%)
    509. Optometrists (4%)
    510. Agricultural engineers (2%)
    511. Media and communication equipment workers (0%)

    I can’t believe that the author messed up so bad.

    BTW: Mathematicians come in at 311 (19%)

  • Jokunt

    No, the listing is somewhat illuminating. For example, it is very strange that the divorce rates for mathematicians do not group with those of physicists/astronomers. In fact a lot of people have already picked up this salient point, which is why it feels so important to the discussion, despite mathematicians having an overall low divorce rate.

    My only explanation for this anomaly is that professional pure mathematicians tend to be creative types, often they’re quite highly strung (like other artists). Most seem to think of mathematics as some type of science, where it really isn’t like other sciences at all. It really requires a lot of imagination and creative thinking; a lot of people don’t really see that since most are only familiar with mathematics at school/college level – which is a terrible analogy for “real” mathematics as it is carried out by working mathematicians.

    Another thing I’d like to point out is that many people seem to be implying that these divorcees are seen as “attractive” by potential rivals to their spouses. Where are they drawing this from? It’s not a given that these people divorced because of an affair – and even if they did maybe they were not the ones who were cheating.

    Too much speculation.

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  • seo

    No, the listing is somewhat illuminating. For instance, it is quite strange that the divorce costs for mathematicians usually do not group with those of physicists/astronomers. In reality a whole lot of people today have already picked up this salient position, that is why it feels so important to your dialogue, despite mathematicians obtaining an general reduced divorce rate.

    My only explanation for this anomaly is the fact that skilled pure mathematicians have a tendency for being inventive kinds, usually they’re quite extremely strung (like other artists). Most seem to think of mathematics as some type of research, wherever it actually isn’t like other sciences in any respect. It definitely demands lots of imagination and inventive contemplating; a good deal of people today don’t genuinely see that considering most are only familiar with mathematics at faculty/school stage – which can be a terrible analogy for “true” mathematics as it truly is carried out by performing mathematicians.

    Another point I’d like to position out is always that many people seem to be to get implying that these divorcees are observed as “attractive” by possible rivals to their spouses. Exactly where are they drawing this from? It’s not a offered that these men and women divorced because of an affair – and also if they did perhaps they ended up being not the ones who ended up being disloyal.

    Too much speculation.

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  • Timone

    I can testify to the high divorce rate for a massage therapist. My ex-wife was very intriqued when one of her male clients would get an errection during a massage. How tough do you think it would be to take a guy to that place if she wanted that. I even heard her tell a client to not feel embarrassed if that happened during a massage because that was her favorate part about giving a massage. As one would expect I came home to find her giving him a happy ending a making aragement to screw him on futher visits.

  • Tiff

    I can see why railroad workers are on this list. I have been dating a railroad worker for a couple years now and let me just say, I would never marry him. Ladies, be very careful when you date a man that works for the railroad. I was warned and have since heard alot of comments from women with first hand experience or close to someone with or has heard. Railroad men work alot of hours, but their day/night can be cut very short and you will never know unless they tell you. They may get done with their work 4 hours early and be let go early, while you are sitting at home thinking they are still at work, when NO they are out fooling around. Or they may lie and tell you, I had to stay late and not show up at home until the wee hours in the morning, but they got off 4 hours early and have been out fooling around all night. So, it’s not just about the long hours, its about the platform they have to use to lie and cheat. My BF works from 4-12. If he has to do overtime, he can be at work until 4 in the morning. If he gets off at 9, I would never know unless I call him or he calls me and even then, he could very well be lieing about where he is or what time he got off. I have heard that in previous relationships this was in issue with him. So, I don’t put it past him to try the same with me. There has been many times when I call him and he says, “oh I just got off, me and the guys stopped to have a drink.” Oh really, you just got off? Now even though I can hear the guys laughing and talking in the background, it’s the point of you being off of work early and I’m sitting at home thinking you are at work. I guess it boils down to trust, but like I said, I know that this was an issue in previous relationships. Like I said, I would never marry this guy.

  • LR

    Women who work male-dominated jobs are more likely to divorce because they are always around men other than their husbands. Men, be careful of marrying female soldiers, firefighters, or cops, example. They’re most likely to cheat on their husbands because they’re working with other men.

    And being artistic, yes artists and designers are more likely to divorce because they collaborate with others and have many clients. Something I know, the guy I’m with will want me to give up if he can’t trust me.

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