Economic Consequences of Union Disruption at Old Age in France

Léa Cimelli , Institut National d'Etudes Démographiques (INED)
Carole Bonnet, Institut National d’Études Démographiques (INED)
Anne Solaz, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

Union disruption can imply a significative drop in economic well being. That loss is likely to vary in intensity or recovery mechanisms (in the labor and marriage markets, through private or public transfers), across disruption type (divorce or widowhood), gender and point in life cycle. In the wake of the rise in life expectancy and surge in « gray divorce », people are increasingly at risk of union disruption later in life. This paper focuses on people facing union disruption after 50 years old, when duration of unions tend to be long and labor market’s opportunities scarce. We will study how living standards vary for men and women when they exit union after 50 years old. Then, we will look into which income sources stabilizes that variation. Based on a french administrative panel which links census and fiscal data, our preliminary results show that, in the short run, divorce is associated with a decrease in living standards while widowhood comes with an increase in living standards. That rise in living standard is firstly caused by change in household size. Secondly, survivor pension mitigates the effects of widowhood on household income and may help stabilize living standards. In both widowhood and divorce men are better off than women, who go through a larger drop when divorcing and a smaller gain when becoming widows. In the medium run, the divorcees recover while the widowed's living standard remain constant.

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 Presented in Session 40. Partner Formation, Union Dissolution and Consequences