Who Gains, Who Loses? Social Class and the Economic Consequences of Separation for British Women

Maike van Damme, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Although it is well known that the majority of women experience an income decline after separation, there is much heterogeneity in these income changes. The social class of women's ex-spouse before the separation explains variations in the economic consequences of union dissolution. Using the BHPS(1991-2008), I find that there is an ‘underclass’ of women who are less likely to receive alimony and more likely to be on welfare. Although women with a lower class ex-spouse experience the smallest income drop after separation, they remain at the bottom of the income distribution. The short-term income drop is largest for women with a white-collar worker ex-partner. However, while service class women recover pretty soon from their large income fall, women who had a spouse from the routine non-manual working class do not succeed to return to pre-separation income levels. Explanations for these findings may be found in women’s economic dependence during marriage.

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Presented in Session 79: European Families and Well-Being