[Quote across two comments]
A college degree is the new dowry. I work with a lot of high-income blue collar guys (Todd Palin types), and the gender pay gap in this social class is enormous. While the men, given enough seniority and the willingness to put in the hours, can easily make six figures a year, the women don’t even come close unless they run successful businesses (some do but it’s rare). You’d think that might induce women to stick around, but due to family law it has the opposite effect.
Say you’re a 27-year-old woman who doesn’t have a college degree and your likewise non-degreed husband is a firefighter. Or he could be a railroader, a mariner, heavy equipment operator, cop, etc. The husband is raking in the dough by the time he’s in his thirties, and you’ve got a couple kids with him. You could get a job in an office making $12/hr, but why bother? Your husband is making significantly more than most guys with 4-year degrees, so there’s no point.
This builds up an enormous inequality in income vs. assets due to “community property” laws. What this does is incentivize the seizure of these assets on the part of the partner with less income. Without working a day, you can get a house, half of retirement savings, and enough monthly maintenance and child support to avoid working for years. It’s a very attractive prospect for a lot of young women, who resent being tied down to one man. It’s really like winning the lottery, as the overall payout frequently runs into the mid six figures.
For the degreed woman, on the other hand, there’s the expectation that she’ll be working too, especially because she has good income potential. Therefore there’s far less incentive to make a break for it, because the assets and debts/mortgages and even child custody will be split more or less equally because she has a job and an income. In other words, she doesn’t “win” anything. Her victory is as likely as not to be pyrrhic.
This is the true value of a college education for girls in the upper middle class. It essentially makes them marriageable (i.e safe bets) to men who have good income and employment potential. It provides some insurance that she will not fly the coop while the man is still rising in his career, because she knows she stands little to gain from doing so.
It’s all about incentives.
The salient aspect of divorce law is that it is empirically overwhelmingly true that divorced women are much, much more likely to see their economic well being fall than men until they remarry, because divorce moves the spouses closer to not equally sharing resources, because women on average earn less than men, and because two households are more expensive than one.
But, on the other hand, the best predictor of divorce is that the wife earns more than the husband and is not financially dependent upon him. From a modeling perspective, the closest match to reality is to view divorce as a decision made almost entirely by wives.
So this suggests that women act against their own and their children’s interests at alarmingly high rates when empowered to do so. Who would have thought?