Spouses' employment situation and divorce in Germany: a dyadic perspective

Lisa Schmid, University of Cologne

Although findings are mixed, previous research has shown that men’s and women’s employment situation can affect the stability of marital unions. One aspect that might be relevant in this context is the rising labor force participation of women and its effect on the power resources in couples. This study contributes to the literature by modelling spouses’ employment situation and its effect on the risk of divorce. It focuses on a broad variety of employment indicators (e.g. employment stability, work load and income) that may affect marital stability in a dyadic perspective. I investigate whether precarious job characteristics of couples lead to a higher divorce risk. Microeconomic, exchange and stress theoretical arguments are employed to derive five hypotheses. I estimate event history models with the Socio Economic Panel (SOEP), which contains information on both spouse’s employment situation as well as their marital life course. The sample of analysis consists of 5,670 couples married in 1984 or after in Germany. Based on my results, I reject the hypothesis that an unstable employment situation of one or both spouses increases their divorce risk. Couples where one partner works full-time and one partner part-time have significantly lower divorce risks than those where both work full-time. Furthermore, marriages where both partners have an employment contract and one partner works overtime are more unstable than couples where one spouse holds no contract and the other works regular hours. Empirical findings do not underline Oppenheimer’s argument that couples with an equal income structure have a lower divorce risk than traditional income couples. Additionally, the couples’ income position is not associated with the stability of their marriage. In sum, it is unlikely that a couple’s job characteristics are important for an explanation of the divorce risk.

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Presented in Session 29: Divorce and union dissolution 1