Unemployment and separation: evidence from five European countries

Anne Solaz, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Esther Geisler, Hertie School of Governance
Michaela Kreyenfeld, Hertie School of Governance
Marika Jalovaara, University of Turku
Silvia Meggiolaro, Università di Padova
Dimitri Mortelmans, Universiteit Antwerpen
Inge Pasteels, Universiteit Antwerpen

With the recent economic crisis, there has been a renewed interest of researchers in the effect of economic conditions on demographic behavior. In this context, it has been extensively studied how unemployment affects fertility dynamics. However, relatively little interest has been devoted to the effect of unemployment on union stability. Micro-level evidence rather shows that individual job loss increases union dissolution risk. At the macro-level, there is rather evidence of a pro-cyclical relationship between divorce and unemployment: divorce rates decline during economic recessions. This micro-macro paradox calls for further investigations. Europe has already experienced a dramatic increase in unemployment due to a slowdown in economic growth, even before the onset of the global financial crisis. A cross-national comparison of separation behavior in Europe offers a unique opportunity to add to the literature. Furthermore, unemployed allowances differ between the countries of Europe allowing us to understand how the welfare state is able to buffer adverse effects of economic recessions on union dissolution. This article draws on rich longitudinal data from Belgium (Flanders), Finland, France, Germany, and Italy to study the effects of individual and aggregate unemployment on dissolution risks. For each country, we use the most appropriate longitudinal data available in the country able to link the professional situation and the partnership history (retrospective data for Belgium, France and Italy, panel data for Germany and register data in Finland). We select couples formed from the mid-seventies, whether married or unmarried, whether first or higher rank union. First results from discrete-time models show that unemployment increases the probability of dissolution for men in all countries while the effect is lower or even not significant among women. This shows that male job status continues to play a greater role. Macro-economic situation has interesting country-specific effects.

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Presented in Session 29: Divorce and union dissolution 1