Double Trouble: Does Job Loss Lead to Union Dissolution and Vice Versa?

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Does relationship breakdown lead to job loss, and job loss to relationship breakdown? Links between the two events are well documented, but this study looks more closely at the data and concludes other factors are at play.

Using a large sample of working-age adults who took part in British household surveys between 1991 and 2018, the researchers asked whether links between job loss and the end of relationships might be caused by other common factors such as personality traits. When such factors were eliminated there was only a very modest link which was not statistically significant. The researchers conclude that common underlying factors can lead individuals towards both relationship breakdown and employment setbacks.

This isn’t the whole story. The research also notes the difference between job loss and actually being unemployed for any length of time. Of those surveyed, most people who lost a job found a new one without any intervening period of unemployment. Unlike job loss however, unemployment does increase a couple’s risk of relationship breakdown.

The study further asked how the length of an unemployment spell might matter for relationships. Here there are gender differences – for women, the risk of relationship breakdown grows as a period of unemployment extends, while for men the greatest risk is either in the early stage of unemployment or if the situation drags on for several years. This added risk in the early stage might be because male unemployment runs against the norm of the ‘male breadwinner’.