Economics Seminar: Sticking Together During Hard Times? High Unemployment Rates and Marital Stability
- Thursday 10 May 2012, 13:00 to 14:00
- Open to:
- Public, Staff, Students
- Dr. Melinda Morrill
Dr. Melinda Morrill (NCSU)
Consistent with anecdotal accounts from the “Great Recession”, recent research concludes that aggregate divorce rates fall during periods of high unemployment. Here, we consider whether the same relationship can be found using individual-level data on marriages combined with the state-level unemployment rate series. Our main analysis uses individual-level retrospective marriage histories reported by women in five panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation. We find that separation rates decline as the unemployment rate rises. This result is robust to alternative specifications and to adding a host of individual-level demographic characteristics, including controls for marriage duration and economic conditions in the year of marriage. The decline in the probability of separation is concentrated among couples where the wife does not have a college degree or married at age 16-19, and those without children in the house. Using panel data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we explore heterogeneity by contemporaneous employment, wealth, and household composition, and find evidence that high unemployment rates mitigate the effect of job loss on marital instability.