A 2009 study examining divorce rates according to occupation was conducted by Michael G. Aamodt from Radford University and his student Shawn P. McCoy. The study was based on the U.S. census from 2000. Incidentally Aamodt initially only examined the common myth that law enforcement officers have a higher than average divorce rate than most other occupations.
As a by-product there are now statistics available for 500 occupations, including those of various types of engineers.
Divorce rates of engineers according to the Radford University study:
- Agricultural engineers 1.78
- Sales engineers 6.61
- Nuclear engineers 7.29
- Chemical engineers 7.48
- Biomedical engineers 8.74
- Mechanical engineers 9.22
- Civil engineers 9.35
- Environmental engineers 9.62
- Computer hardware engineers 9.94
- Petroleum engineers 9.98
- Electrical and electronic engineers 10.05
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers 10.96
- Mining and geological engineers 11.08
- Aerospace engineers 11.11
- Computer software engineers 11.26
- Ship engineers 11.95
- Industrial engineers, including health and sanitation 12.42
- Materials engineers 12.58
- Marine engineers and naval architects 14.62
- Locomotive engineers and operators 15.77
- Stationary engineers and boiler operators 16.99
- Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators 18.97
The vast majority of engineering professions clearly have a divorce rate of under 13%, almost half are below 10%. In comparison dancers and choreographers have a divorce rate of 43.05%, which is the highest. Bartenders, the second highest, is still at 38.43%. A very high number of other occupations have divorce rates of over 20%.
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Possible explanations behind the low divorce rate of engineers
Many articles citing the Radford University study don’t delve into the reasons of why. The study itself was unable to answer the question and barely even attempted to do so. The authors do point out that the accumulated data doesn’t reveal whether the nature of the jobs or the people prone to unstable relationships, who may be drawn to these professions, actually lead to divorce.
One article on a site primarily revolving around the subject of divorce makes an attempt to explain why engineers are less prone to divorce. Obviously engineering jobs require an advanced degree, which means people with higher education choose these roles. This would usually imply a higher than average income, which means financial difficulties are easier dealt with or don’t arise at all. Financial troubles do lead to marital problems as well due to the added stress on the family. The article also purports that the higher level of communication inherent in engineering jobs may be vital. A healthy communication in a marriage is vital for its survival.
At the same time nobody has specifically studied engineers and their marriages or divorces to obtain more relevant and accurate data. Michael Aamodt and his students have been looking further into the question of “Why?” since the study was published, but at this time no further results have been made available.
Shortcomings of the Radford University study
One of the problems of the study is that it only includes the data of people who were divorced or separated at the time of the 2000 census. People who were previously divorced and had remarried were not considered. Their marital status would have been “married” at the time of the study with no option available for “remarried” or “previously divorced”.
It is thus possible that members of some professions simply have a high remarriage rate.
The study started from the vantage point of trying to find out the divorce rate of law enforcement officers, which means there is no detailed study on divorce rates of engineers available. Additionally only the census data of a single year has been taken into consideration. The study cites two previous studies from 1909 and 1963 that also used census data to compare occupations and divorce rates.
Additionally today more people divorce than before. The rate has steadily increased over all occupations, especially in recent decades, which makes even the 2000 census data somewhat outdated.
Clearly the overall availability of studies of this nature is very limited. Arriving at any definitive conclusion is difficult and a useful context is not currently available.
What is the usefulness of divorce rate data according to occupation?
Michael Aamodt wanted to debunk the myth that law enforcement officers divorce more frequently than other occupations. He successfully did so. At the same time he accumulated a lot of data on many other professions. What do we do with this information?
Dating services and divorce analysts point out the relative security of marrying a partner from one profession as opposed to another profession. If marriage to a dancer has an almost 50% chance of failing, it may deter their partners from taking that risk. If a marriage to an agricultural engineer has a more than 98% chance of lasting, a partner will happily say “I do”.
But as long as there is nobody looking into the reasons behind these divorce rates, the numbers alone are insufficient.
Some occupations do seem to attract personalities uniquely suited for the profession. Some personalities are more prone to stable relationships than others. If a relationship between those two types of personalities and the occupations they seek can be established, the resulting information would be more useful.
On the other hand there are occupations that have very high stress levels and the stress a person experiences at work can spill over into their life at home and influence a relationship negatively. Even the most committed partners may not be able to handle the stress and end up divorcing.
And here cohesive data is especially important, because a healthy work-life balance is important and changes could and should be implemented if statistical evidence can be presented demanding that change.