Divorce and the Growth of Poverty Gaps Over the Life Course: A Risk and Vulnerability Approach

A new paper by Hogendoorn, Leopold and Bol, Divorce and the Growth of Poverty Gaps Over the Life Course: A Risk and Vulnerability Approach, published in the DIAL working paper series, examines educational gradients in the relationship between divorce and poverty. The authors take a new approach to studying growing poverty gaps between education groups by combining theoretical aspects of gradients in the probability of divorce (risk) and gradients in how divorce influences poverty (vulnerability). Previous studies have demonstrated that the lower educated have both a higher risk of divorce, and have suggested they also have a higher probability to suffer from the negative consequences of divorce. However, by studying risk and vulnerability separately, previous research has not fully assessed their joint contributions to poverty.

Hogendoorn and colleagues study the educational gradients in divorce and poverty using longitudinal administrative data from the Netherlands. They confirm that the lower educated indeed have the highest risk of divorce and the highest probability to fall into poverty after divorce. These gradients also strengthen over the life course, which means that the contributions of divorce to poverty among lower educated men and women increase as they age. However, the contributions of divorce to poverty differ by gender and parenthood, for example mothers seem to be particularly likely to fall into poverty after divorce than any other group.

One of the main contributions of the paper is the two-fold approach of risk and vulnerability of divorce and how they have contributed to the increased poverty gaps between education groups. Hogendoorn and colleagues illustrate that especially among mothers, both risk and vulnerability of divorce contribute significantly to the educational gradient in poverty. The phenomenon is less substantial among childless individuals and absent among fathers.

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Measuring Unfair Inequality: Reconciling Equality of Opportunity and Freedom from Poverty

Measuring Unfair Inequality: Reconciling Equality of Opportunity and Freedom from Poverty, a new working paper by Hufe, Kanbur and Peichl, takes up the issue of multifaceted inequality by putting forth a new measure of unfair inequality. The authors argue that inequality is not bad per se, but that one should differentiate between different aspects of inequality in order to make normative statements about the fairness of a given income distribution.

Hufe, Kanbur and Peichl focus on two widely held principles of justice: equality of opportunity and freedom from poverty. Inequality of opportunity exists when individual outcomes are a result of factors one has no control over, such as gender, race or parental resources. Poverty is understood as an extreme outcome, in which people do not have sufficient resources to make ends meet. Both of these concepts are considered equally important when measuring unfair inequality. Thus, Hufe and colleagues combine both considerations in a co-equal fashion to provide a more comprehensive empirical measure for unfair inequality.

To illustrate the use and significance of the new measure, Hufe and colleagues provide empirical evidence on cross-national inequalities in Europe and the development in the United States over time. The results indicate a higher level of unfair inequality compared to existing measures. Furthermore, the ranking of distributions is markedly different in comparison to measures that focus on either of the two principles in isolation. This confirms, that their measure can provide fundamental insights into the normative structure of income distributions and their evolution.

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Dynamics of Inequality Across the Life-course (DIAL) is a multi-disciplinary research programme consisting of thirteen European projects. The projects examine the sources, structures and consequences of inequalities in contemporary societies. The programme is funded by NORFACE for the period 2017–2021.

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