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What's love got to do with it? Homogamy and dyadic approaches to understanding marital instability

  • Rebecca Kippen
  • Bruce Chapman
  • Peng Yu

The determinants of marital instability is an important area of research for demography, sociology and economics, with a host of public policy outcomes being significantly affected by family breakdown. This paper improves our understanding of the issue through the use of rich longitudinal data and the application of advanced research approaches. In both method and data terms our approach represents a significant advance in this research area. Using data from waves 1–7 of HILDA, 2,482 married couples—where both partners are respondents in the first wave—are traced over six years to identify factors associated with marital instability. The data are analysed dyadically; that is, the characteristics of both partners in each couple are considered in tandem. This allows assessment of whether marriages between partners with similar characteristics (homogamy) are more likely to last than are marriages between dissimilar partners, or whether particular characteristics of wives or husbands—independent of their partners’—are more strongly associated with marital stability. A Cox proportional hazards model with time-varying covariates is used to assess the association of characteristics with marital separation. We find the following factors are associated with higher risk of marital separation: spousal differences in age, education, preference for a(nother) child, and drinking and smoking behaviours; dissatisfaction with the relationship; low household income; husband’s unemployment and perceived financial stress; young age at marriage; separation of parents; second-plus marriage; and resident children born before marriage.

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File URL: https://www.cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/cepr/DP631.pdf
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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 631.

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Date of creation: Jan 2010
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Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:631
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  1. Smith, Ian, 1997. "Explaining the Growth of Divorce in Great Britain," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 44(5), pages 519-44, November.
  2. Lehrer, Evelyn L., 2006. "Age at Marriage and Marital Instability: Revisiting the Becker-Landes-Michael Hypothesis," IZA Discussion Papers 2166, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Torkild Lyngstad, 2004. "The impact of parent's and spouses' education on divorce rates in Norway," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 10(5), pages 121-142, April.
  4. Weiss, Yoram & Willis, Robert J, 1997. "Match Quality, New Information, and Marital Dissolution," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages S293-329, January.
  5. Matthew Gray & Bruce Chapman, 2007. "Relationship break-down and the economic welfare of Australian mothers and their children," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 10(4), pages 253-277, December.
  6. Jensen, Peter & Smith, Nina, 1990. "Unemployment and Marital Dissolution," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 215-29, October.
  7. Elizabeth Thomson, 1997. "Couple childbearing desires, intentions, and births," Demography, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 343-354, August.
  8. Ostermann, Jan & Sloan, Frank A. & Taylor, Donald H., 2005. "Heavy alcohol use and marital dissolution in the USA," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(11), pages 2304-2316, December.
  9. Marika Jalovaara, 2003. "The joint effects of marriage partners’ socioeconomic positions on the risk of divorce," Demography, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 67-81, February.
  10. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-46, July-Aug..
  11. Becker, Gary S & Landes, Elisabeth M & Michael, Robert T, 1977. "An Economic Analysis of Marital Instability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(6), pages 1141-87, December.
  12. Jay Teachman, 2002. "Stability across cohorts in divorce risk factors," Demography, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 331-351, May.
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