Female-Breadwinner Couples and Union Instability in France: A Dynamic Approach over the Life Course

Giulia Ferrari , Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Anne Solaz, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Agnese Vitali, University of Trento

Couples in which the woman earns more than her husband are structurally becoming more and more frequent. Because female breadwinning challenges gender roles, scholars have theorized and empirically showed that female-breadwinner couples are more exposed to the risk of union dissolution compared to other couples. Recent literature found that the female-breadwinner penalty is less strong among recent marriage cohorts. This article adopts a dynamic approach to analyse whether female-breadwinning couples are still more likely to separate, and whether the relationship between men and women’s relative economic status and partnership dissolution changes over the life-cycle. We use a unique administrative data source that links micro-census data, vital event registrations, housing and income tax declarations from 2011 to 2017, on a sample of 4% of the total French resident population in which we observe more than 100,000 union dissolutions. As measures of individual earnings come from fiscal records, they are immune to self-reporting bias typical of survey data. Furthermore, the yearly dynamic nature of the data allows to observe transitions from and out female breadwinner couple across time. Results show that female breadwinner couples still show a higher risk of dissolution in France. There is no sign of a fading effect for new cohorts in spite of their higher frequency. This is true whatever the definition used (relative income or relative professional status), whatever the period of the life-cycle, and whatever the marital status. Female breadwinner divorce-promoting effect seems to be less pronounced for richer couples.

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 Presented in Session 96. Union Dissolution 1