Unemployment and separation: Evidence from five European countries

Anne Solaz, Marika Jalovaara, Michaela Kreyenfeld, Silvia Meggiolaro, Dimitri Mortelmans, Inge Pasteels

To what extent are economic difficulties associated with union instability? Since the 1970s, several European countries have experienced both high rates of union dissolution and high unemployment rates. This article uses the experience of five European countries before the recent economic crisis to explore the relationship between both individual and aggregate unemployment and union dissolution risk. Using rich longitudinal data from Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, and Italy, discrete-time models show that male partner’s unemployment increases the risk of union dissolution in all countries. Female partner’s unemployment is associated to more varied effects and is only significant in countries where it is standard practice to be in paid employment. The effect is always of lower magnitude than the male partner’s unemployment. Interestingly, there is no association between unemployment and union dissolution at the macro level for men. In France and Belgium, we find that individual unemployment during a recession lowers divorce risk for women, while it increases them in Italy. Findings are interpreted in light of the different ways that individual unemployment may be perceived during recession.

Unemployment, divorce, separation, contextaual effect, gender, couple, crisis

Published in Journal of Family Research