It is not often that extensive postgraduate education is thought of as a bad thing. Nevertheless, in the past, a body of research showed that a well-educated woman who married a less-educated man was at a higher risk of divorce.

That is no longer the case, according to a new study. The study, published in the August edition of the journal American Sociological Review, examined marriages that began between 1950 and 2004. In general, marriages between educational equals remained most common in modern times. But, when there was an educational discrepancy between spouses, the wife is now more likely to have the edge.

In about 30 percent of marriages entered into in the early 2000s, the wife had more education, and in about 20 percent, the husband had more education. This is the reverse of the pattern seen from the 1950s to the late 1970s. Yet during this earlier time period, marriages between a more-educated woman and a less-educated man were less likely to last. Since the 1990s, the study shows, such couples have divorce rates that are no higher than other couples.

These days, traditional gender roles and assumptions about marriage are increasingly being broken down. But this does not mean that there are not other sources of tension in modern marriages. Divorce is still common. Yet, like marriages that do not strictly conform to traditional gender expectations, attitudes toward divorce have changed dramatically in recent years. Divorce no longer carries the stigma it once did, and if a divorce is what it will take to make you happy, there are no longer strong societal pressures to stop you.

Source: USA Today, “A more educated wife: Not a recipe for divorce,” Kim Painter, July 24, 2014