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Spousal Dissimilarity, Race, and Marital Dissolution


Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson Street, Room 2273, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (


I test the claims that spousal differences in ideational, behavioral, and other traits contribute to elevated rates of marital dissolution among African Americans. Using data from 3 waves of the National Survey of Families and Households (N = 5,424), I find that African American spouses experience high levels of dissimilarity in traits that may produce incompatibility. That dissimilarity can account for part of the difference in marital dissolution risk between African Americans and other groups. African Americans’ higher levels of spousal dissimilarity in certain areas may result from less resolution of spousal differences during initial relationship stages rather than from differences in assortative mating. The results argue for increased focus on how couple-level factors early in relationships influence racial variation in marital dissolution.