Falling out of love and down the housing ladder: a longitudinal analysis of marital separation and home ownership

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

August 15, 2014


We analyse the interdependence between marital separation and home ownership. Past
research showed that separations reduce the likelihood of owning a home. We add to this literature by
allowing partners to be aware of the risk of separation in our empirical analysis. We analyse (i)
residential moves to owned and rented dwellings and (ii) the selection processes between ownership
and separation. We also assess differences by gender and for two different institutional contexts,
Britain and Germany. Drawing on results from two longitudinal surveys (British Household Panel Survey
and Socio-Economic Panel Study, 1991–2008), we find that separation is negatively associated with
ownership. Part of this effect is explained by lower prior investments in ownership by those who
separate, but the effect is partly a direct consequence of separation. Although ownership rates increase
again after repartnering, these rates do not reach the levels of the first marriage. Although the effect
of separation has a universal character, substantial differences in housing markets allow ex-partners in
Britain to maintain relatively high levels of ownership after a separation, while ownership rates fall
dramatically in Germany.

Published in

European Sociological Review

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 30 , p.512 -524







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