Dyadic employment biographies and within-couple wealth inequality in Britain and Western Germany

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

April 15, 2022



This study examines how the interplay of both partners' employment biographies is associated with the within-couple gender wealth gap in later life in Britain and Western Germany, including married couples born between the 1920s and 1960s.

Although it is well-known that women own less personal wealth than their male partners on average, variation in the gender wealth gap across partners' employment constellations and contexts remains unaddressed. Following the life course paradigm, this study theorizes how individual wealth accumulation, within-couple redistribution processes, and institutional arrangements shape the within-couple gender wealth gap in later life.

The analyses rely on retrospective employment and prospective survey data from Britain (UKHLS; Wave 8; 2016–2018) and Germany (SOEP, 2017). Sequence and cluster analyses detect patterns of dyadic employment biographies (ages 20–55) among different-sex couples in their first marriage and OLS regressions associate them with the within-couple gender wealth gap.

The within-couple gender wealth gap to the disadvantage of women existed in Britain and Western Germany, with considerably larger inequality in Germany. German male breadwinner couples, particularly those with longer periods of female homemaking and part-time employment, showed higher levels of wealth inequality. Whereas dyadic employment biographies were not clearly associated with the gender wealth gap in Britain, stable arrangements of female full-time employment reduced the gap in Germany.

A similar division of labor throughout the life course can result in different levels of the within-couple gender wealth gap in later life across country contexts, particularly depending on the housing system.

Published in

Journal of Marriage and Family

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 84 , p.552 -569







Open Access

© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Marriage and Family published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of National Council on Family Relations.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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