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Is a Bad Economy Good for Marriage? The Relationship between Macroeconomic Conditions and Marital Stability from 1998-2009

January 2012

Kristen Harknett, University of Pennsylvania and Daniel Schneider, Princeton University

Download '2012-06 NPC Working Paper.pdf'.


In the United States, the Great Recession has been marked by severe shocks to labor and housing markets. In this study, we combine longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) with administrative data on local area unemployment rates and state-level mortgage delinquency rates to examine the relationship between labor and housing market distress and marital dissolution among couples with children. Although the recession increased economic hardship in our sample, we find no evidence that these economic stresses accelerated or increased rates of marital dissolution. On the contrary, our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the recession led some couples to delay or forego marital separation. This relationship was strongest in subgroups that were hardest hit by the recession: racial and ethnic minorities and those with low levels of educational attainment.

Employment, Unemployment, and the Labor Market, Marriage, Family Formation and Reproductive Issues