Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Gingrich Effect

I've stolen the headline from Balloon Juice, and I hope the name sticks to this study: overall divorce rates for couples where one partner is very sick stays at an average level, but only because healthy women are much less likely to divorce a now-sick spouse while healthy men are much more likely to divorce their sick spouse. A healthy man is seven times more likely to divorce a sick spouse than a healthy woman is.

Some interesting comments at Balloon Juice. Someone points out that women often have financial reasons for staying in a marriage that men often don't. OTOH, that doesn't explain why women decrease their divorce rate - a seriously-sick husband is less of a financial advantage than a healthy one.

Other comments highlight how women are conditioned to be caretakers while men are disproportionately unable to handle being around someone sick (obviously, lots of generalizing here). I think it's interesting because it doesn't come close to eliminating the moral flaw, but suggests that women are challenged in an area where they are most prepared to overcome the betrayal temptation, while men are the least ready. Bottom line though: even if you're so ethically weak that you can't take care of your wife, that doesn't require a divorce.

No one raised the Medicaid issue: a divorce might not be a betrayal, but a way to protect the healthy spouse's assets while the sick spouse gets Medicaid assistance, and the relationship continues in an unmarried state following the "paper divorce". Not clear why this would create a gender differential, though. Maybe men have more assets from prior to the marriage that they can protect through divorce?

There may be some partial explanations, but men don't look too good in all this.

And there's always exceptions. A horrible spouse may be richly deserving of divorce papers and that might not change immediately after a cancer diagnosis. I doubt that describes Newt Gingrich's first wife, though.

Unrelated: just watched an old Coen brothers' film, Miller's Crossing. Very good, and very dark. This excellent, spoiler-filled review describes the conflict between ethics and love in the form of two fighting gangs and within the persona of the male lead. I completely disagree with the review as to which side won in the lead's mind.

And with that, I'm travelling for a bit, so there'll be little or no blogging until December.

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