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Demography. 1997 Nov;34(4):455-66; discussion 467-79.

The rise of divorce and separation in the United States, 1880-1990.

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Department of History, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455, USA.


I use the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series to assess the potential effects of local labor-market conditions on long-term trends and race differences in marital instability. The rise of female labor-force participation and the increase in nonfarm employment are closely associated with the growth of divorce and separation. Moreover, higher female labor-force participation among black women and lower economic opportunities for black men may account for race differences in marital instability before 1940, and for most of such differences in subsequent years. However, unmeasured intervening cultural factors are probably responsible for at least part of these effects.

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