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Are Female-Breadwinner Couples Always Less Stable?

Collection : Documents de travail

285, 2023, 55 pages

The paper tackles the association between partners' relative earnings and union dissolution among couples in France.
With the increase in dual-earner couples and women’s educational level, couples in which women earn more than their partners are structurally becoming more widespread. Because female breadwinning challenges long-lived social norms regarding traditional gender roles, scholars have theorized a higher risk of union dissolution of femalebreadwinner couples compared to couples in other income arrangements.
We estimate the risk of union dissolution using regression analyses on a unique longitudinal data from French administrative sources containing an unconventionally high number of couples (4% of the population) and separation events (more than 100,000), as well as precise and reliable income measurement.
Female-breadwinner couples face a higher risk of union dissolution compared to other couple types. This result is robust to various definitions of female breadwinning and controls for both partners’ employment status. Contrary to recent research on other country settings, there is no sign of a fading effect among younger cohorts. However, younger, cohabiting couples and couples in civil partnerships enjoy a couple-stabilizing premium when both partners are employed with similar individual incomes, suggesting the emergence of a new egalitarian equilibrium within couple.
The female-breadwinner penalty in union dissolution is in place also in genderegalitarian France, it holds among married and cohabiting couples and registered partnerships, across all birth cohorts and levels of household income.

Giulia Ferrari

Anne Solaz

  • Agnese Vitali

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