The Heterogeneous Effect of Job Loss on Union Dissolution. Panel Evidence from the UK, Germany and Switzerland.

Daniel Oesch , Université de Lausanne
Alessandro Di Nallo, Université de Lausanne
Oliver Lipps, Swiss Foundation for Research in the Social Sciences (FORS)
Marieke Voorpostel, Swiss Foundation for Research in the Social Sciences (FORS)

How does unemployment affect the risk of separation? Job loss may decrease the risk if the main benefit from being in a couple is insurance against negative earning shocks. In contrast, the risk of separation increases if unemployment produces stress that reduces the quality of couple relations. Alternatively, the effect of job loss on couple stability may not be homogeneous, but vary for different income groups. We examine this question and analyze how unemployment affects the risk of separation in Germany and the UK. The use of long-running household panels (SOEP, BHPS, UKHLS) allows us to observe heterosexual couples one year before and three years after an unemployment spell. By combining fixed-effects regressions with a matching method, we obtain a control group of couples who do not experience unemployment, but are similar otherwise. Our results show for both countries that the separation rate after an unemployment spell doubles in the first two years after job loss, increasing from 2 to 4 percent, and remains higher than for the control group for the following two years. In the UK, the risk of separation increases more when men than women lose their job, but the effect does not vary by gender in Germany. In both countries, couples in low-income households face a higher extra-risk of union dissolution after an unemployment spell than middle and high-income couples.

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 Presented in Session 40. Partner Formation, Union Dissolution and Consequences