The reversal of the gender imbalance in education and union dissolution in Europe

Martin Klesment, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Jan Van Bavel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Christine Schnor, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Lindsay Theunis, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

In many Western countries, the gender imbalance in higher education has reversed with women being now on average more educated than men. This has led to increases in the proportion of marriages in which she is higher educated than her partner and in which she is the main earner. Such couples are commonly found to experience higher risk of separation. Our assumption is that the reversal of the gender imbalance in education has affected separation rates. In this study, we analyze rates in 19 European countries during the period of 2004-2012. We focus on the association between women’s relative resources, i.e. her education and income compared to the partner’s, and the probability of separating. Data come from merged EU-SILC longitudinal files. Our findings show that women’s higher relative education increases dissolution risks but the effect varies by her relative income. Female breadwinner couples are more likely to separate. Furthermore, we find that separation risks are generally higher in countries where the proportion of women among the tertiary educated is high (60% or more).

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Presented in Session 79: Divorce and union dissolution 2