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Greenstein, Theodore N. & Davis, Shannon N. (2006). Cross-National Variations in Divorce: Effects of Women's Power, Prestige and Dependence. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 37(2), 253-273.


Despite the widespread interest in the causes and consequences of divorce, relatively few studies have examined marital disruption across societies. This lack of research is especially surprising given the fact that many of the factors studied intensively at the individual level--women's labor force participation, religious affiliation, age at marriage--could also be profitably studied when the unit of analysis is a society or nation. While on the one hand we have to be concerned when examining macro-level phenomena that we do not become guilty of the ecological fallacy, we must take advantage of all opportunities to examine the variation in social events cross-culturally. The extent to which there is similarity and difference in the rate of divorce based upon other social factors (such as the demographic composition and the cartography of the economy) has not been examined since large-scale changes occurred in the former Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe. We cannot assume that previously noted relationships at the societal level (Clark 1990; Fu 1992; Trent and South 1989) are the same after such significant change has occurred globally.
The primary purpose of this research is to analyze divorce rate data provided by a recent (1995-1998) sample of 71 nations worldwide and to focus on the effects of women's power and prestige and women's economic dependence on national divorce rates. We also hope to inform the literature by examining several other questions, including the effects of religion, development, and laws regarding divorce on national divorce rates.
Specifically, we are building upon previous cross-national analyses of the determinants of a country's divorce rate (Clark 1990; Fu 1992; Trent and South 1989) by first replicating the previous studies with more recent data. We also expand upon previous findings by adding a measure of the relative ease of obtaining a divorce within a country and control for other demographic and nation-state characteristics.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Journal of Comparative Family Studies


Greenstein, Theodore N.
Davis, Shannon N.