Divorced and Unemployed: the Declining Association between Two Critical Lifecourse States in the UK, 1984-2017

Individuals exposed to both job loss and marital dissolution are likely to be highly disadvantaged, having experienced stresses and losses in the two primary domains of life. Moreover, recent literature finds that exposure to one event tends to increase the risk of the other. However, next to nothing is known about the size or composition – or changes therein – of the divorced/separated and unemployed (DSU) subpopulation. Using large, nationally representative, repeated cross-sectional datasets extending back to 1984, we aim to fill this gap for the UK. We give a descriptive account of the prevalence and social distribution of DSU, and of the cross-sectional association between its two component states: among which groups, by education and gender, does being either divorced/separated or unemployed most strongly imply a heightened risk of also being the other, and how has this changed over time? We find stable and strong educational inequality in DSU, while the gender gap has narrowed and recently closed. The association between the two states is stronger among men; has weakened strikingly over the time period we consider, for both men and, especially, women; and is educationally stratified among men but not women. Contrary to expectations, higher-educated men in one of the two states are most likely to also be in the other. Possible explanations and further questions are discussed. In particular, we highlight the possibility that over this time period the divorced/separated have become more like the general population, rather than a negatively selected subgroup among whom unemployment is a particular risk.

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Trajectories of Life Satisfaction Before, Upon, and After Divorce: Evidence From a New Matching Approach

The new DIAL working paper by Scheppingen and Leopold Trajectories of Life Satisfaction Before, Upon, and After Divorce: Evidence from a New Matching Approach analyses how divorce influences life satisfaction. The results indicate that life satisfaction declines among divorcees, and that some declines last at least five years after the divorce.

Van Scheppingen and Leopold analyse trajectories of life satisfaction with data from the longitudinal German Socio-Economic Panel Study. They match individuals who experience a divorce with individuals as similar to them as possible but who do not experience a divorce. By comparing these two groups, the authors can take into account other marriage-related factors that influence life satisfaction as well as the general decline in life satisfaction that tends to take place after marriage.

The results show that life satisfaction indeed declines more among divorcees than individuals who remain married. This relative decline starts years before divorce and is most pronounced at the time of the divorce. Life satisfaction rises again after divorce but remains at lower levels as compared to married individuals. The change in life satisfaction is not the same among all divorcees, indicating that some show full recovery, as others remain at lower levels of life satisfaction until years after the divorce.

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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.