Living in Limbo: The Unsolved Mystery of the Racial Gap in the Duration of Marital Separation

Timothy A. Roeper, CUNY Institute for Demographic Research (CIDR) and Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY)
Neil G. Bennett, CUNY Institute for Demographic Research (CIDR)

It has long been known that the process of marital dissolution varies substantially among subgroups. One aspect of that process – the duration of marital separation prior to divorce – is associated significantly with income and education. The length of separation has also been found to be considerably longer among African Americans than among whites, but the reasons underlying that difference are not clear. We analyze marital history and economic data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to explore this phenomenon more fully, in order to assess the extent to which factors that covary with race might account for the apparent significance of race. Specifically, we examine the roles of assets, benefits, and income, and their interaction, to gain greater understanding of the marital dissolution process and how and why it differs between racial groups.

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 Presented in Session P1. Marriage, Unions, Families, and Households