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The Gender of Breakup in Heterosexual Couples

Sat, August 22, 8:30 to 10:10am, TBA


Women initiate most divorces in the US, yet the reasons why women are more likely to initiate divorce are poorly understood. All of the prior literature on the gendered nature of breakup has been limited to analysis of heterosexual marriages and divorces. Prior literature has therefore been unable to distinguish the gendered nature of relationship breakup, versus the gendered roles of breakup specific to the institution of marriage itself. In this paper, I use a new longitudinal study of relationships and breakups in the US, the How Couples Meet and Stay Together surveys. The data examine the gender of breakup for both marital and nonmarital relationships for the first time. The results show that women’s initiation of breakup is specific to heterosexual marriage. Men and women in nonmarital heterosexual relationships in the US are equally likely to initiate breakup. The results are consistent with a feminist critique of heterosexual marriage as an institution that benefits men more than women.