Spouse and child support payments: a way to compensate women’s financial loss after separation?

Carole Bonnet, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Bertrand Garbinti, CREST-INSEE
Anne Solaz, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

Marital separations and divorces have dramatically increased during the last decades. The literature emphasized the gendered economic consequences of union dissolution, showing a worsening of women’s living standard after separation, whereas the men’s one remains stable or increases. However two points remain unexplored so far. First of all, alimony transfers (spousal and child support) have received relatively scant attention in the economic literature, doubtless for lack of suitable data. They may however, represent a significant amount of household post-divorce income. Ignoring them could lead to an overstatement of the living standards decline of women and symmetrically to an overstatement of men’s living standards. Second, in case of divorce and separation, standard surveys have difficulties to recover both former partners after union dissolution because of they are likely to move. To overcome these difficulties, we use the French exhaustive administrative income-tax data. We rely on a population composed of all the divorcees of the year 2009 – roughly 130,000 couples ie 260,000 partners. We analyse to what extent the private transfers do play their role in balancing living standards between man and woman after divorce. Spousal alimony is rare but child alimony concerns three quarters of divorces with children, received mainly by the mother. First results show they play a significant role in offsetting gender economic post-divorce inequalities. Separation and divorce imply the end of economies of scale. The decrease in living standard is mainly supported by women who have more often primary custody. Public transfers offset inequalities specially for poor or/and families with many children. Private transfers (child support payments) increase living standards of women but without equalizing living standards in both households. Women in « Male breadwinner » couples are the most affected ones.

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Presented in Session 34: Work, employment and income in an uncertain world