The economic consequences of partnership dissolution: a comparative analysis of panel studies from Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Sweden

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2006


The paper analyses the economic consequences of partnership dissolution in different
institutional settings. Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Sweden are selected as
representatives of four prototypical models of family support (market model, extended
family model, male breadwinner model, dual earner model). It is assumed that these four
types of family support create specific dependencies within the family, which in case of
separation or divorce may have negative economic consequences for the weaker partner.
The central question is how much economic autonomy is granted to the weaker family
members within each of the four models. Following a thorough discussion of the institutional
setting in each of the selected countries, it is assumed that economic autonomy is
highest in Sweden and lowest in Italy with Belgium, Germany, and Great Britain ranging in
between. Using a cross-national data set of separations developed by the authors from
national household panels in these five countries, a large number of partnership dissolutions
are studied over time. The observation period is long enough to distinguish shortfrom
long-term consequences of partnership dissolution and in doing so to add to previous
comparative research. Using multivariate panel data models it is shown that (i) adjusted
household income is affected for both genders; however more negatively for women than
for men, (ii) the income decline is highest in Italy and lowest in Sweden, and (iii) British and
German women recover rather quickly from the negative economic effects of separation.
Sweden stands out as the country with the highest gender equalities with respect to
post-separation incomes. However, the model does not convince without having a blemish:
in the long run both Swedish men and women have to deal with long-lasting financial
consequences after separation, which do not appear to the same extent in any of the
other countries.

Published in

European Sociological Review


Volume: 22 (5):520-533




serial sequence - indexed article



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