The effect of unemployment on couples separating. Panel evidence for Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom

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This research looks at how unemployment affects the risk of separation for heterosexual couples living together in Germany, Switzerland and the UK. The findings show a doubling of the separation rate from 2 to 4 percent after an unemployment spell.

The picture was the same whether it was the man or the woman who was out of work, indicating that whether you are a man or a woman, being out of work undermines couple stability equally.

Couples in the UK with low incomes were more likely to separate than their higher earning peers. This was not the case in Germany, something the researchers say can be explained by differences in welfare states with the UK providing weaker income protection to the unemployed.

The research analysed information collected in large surveys that follow households over time and used innovative methods that enabled them to compare comparable couples that did and did not experience unemployment.

The findings support the theory that unemployment spells are likely to increase the risk of separation because of the stress and strain that being out of work might place on a relationship. By contrast, the findings contradict theories that the financial costs of separating might be a reason for couples staying together

There was no evidence that male unemployment undermines couple stability more than female unemployment or vice versa. However, the researchers conclude that couples who earn very little look to be more vulnerable to the negative consequences of unemployment than their better-off counterparts.