Has adjustment to divorce become more gender equal? Mothers’ and fathers’ income and happiness after marital break-up before and after the divorce law revision in Switzerland

Dorian Kessler, Bern University of Applied Sciences

An important motivation for the ongoing investigation of differences in divorce effects for mothers and fathers are changing societal contexts. Referring to married mothers’ heightened economic independence, authors of US and UK based studies concluded on decreasing income and employment effects of divorce for women, while for Germany results do not point in this direction. This study investigates differences in mothers’ and fathers’ economic and emotional adjustment to divorce before and after the divorce law revision in Switzerland in 2000. With the perspective on long-term effects on income and happiness, it adds to the very few results of research into the consequences of divorce for Switzerland. Notwithstanding, the main contribution of the study is the examination of changes in the effects of divorce. With Switzerland sharing features with both contexts for which evidence exists – the US and UK laissez-faire style family policy and features of the conservative German welfare regime – the results help to develop a comparative perspective on the evolution of the economic effects of divorce. With its additional focus on changes in the happiness effects of divorce, the study examines changes in emotional consequences of marital break-ups, which, in previous studies, have often been referred to only implicitly. The results from OLS on pooled cross-sectional datasets of divorcees and entropy-balanced counterfactual samples of continuously married suggest that, after divorce, mothers generally suffer both, higher income and happiness disadvantages than fathers. Just like in Germany, the relative economic position of divorcees has remained largely stable. After the divorce law revision, however, divorced mothers happiness was relatively higher, rendering emotional well-being after divorce more gender equal. This result is partly attributable to divorced mothers more frequent re-partnering and higher labor market participation.

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Presented in Session 91: After divorce and widowhood