The Gray Divorce Podcast: Episode 19 Watch Out for Bad Divorce Statistics!

Andrew Hatherley |

In this short episode of the Gray Divorce Podcast, I discuss research both old and new about the differing economic consequences of divorce for men and women. 

Research published in 2020 in the Gerontological Society of America’s Journals of Gerontology shows the results of a study comparing women's and men's economic well-being prior to, during, and following gray divorce and subsequent re-partnering. 

The results showed women experienced a 45% decline in their standard of living whereas men's dropped by 21%. These declines persisted over time for men, and only reversed for women following re-partnering, which more or less offset women's losses associated with gray divorce. There was no gender gap for changes in wealth following divorce with both women and men experiencing roughly a 50% drop. Which stands to reason with assets and debt usually split in divorce. 

Despite this new research, which represents a significant contribution to the study of the differing economic consequences of divorce for women and men, some financial professionals insist on citing old research whose value could be considered debatable even at the time it was released. 

I refer to a study published by Richard Peterson in 1996 in the American Sociological Review. Peterson’s study, which was a re-analysis of much older data, claims that women's standard of living dropped 27% after divorce while men's actually rose 10%. 

The original research Peterson analyzed is now 46 years old and represented a sample limited both in scope and geography: 228 couples in Los Angeles County in 1977. 

The message of this podcast is that issues such as the economic consequences of divorce for men and women are too serious to be using bad statistics. The other message is simply an old one: don't believe everything you read! 

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