Late-Life Marital Behaviours in France : Gender and Income Inequalities

Carole Bonnet, Ined
Fanny Godet, INSEE
Anne Solaz, INED

The large baby-boom generations are now arriving at retirement ages. Not only have they experienced more often unmarried histories or union dissolutions than previous generations during their working-age but they also “bring” new conjugal behaviors during the retirement period. This greater diversity of conjugal trajectories are going to profoundly change the structure of the population over the age of 50 with important implications in terms of living conditions and inequalities between men and women.

Demographic events at older ages are still poorly studied and this article aims at describing the conjugal situations of people over 50 in France, especially at oldest ages, as well as the marital transitions (unmarried couple formation, marriage, separation, divorce and loss of spouse), with a particular attention to the role of income and gender. Are economic resources playing a role on these transitions at later ages? Are the effects different for men and women? Can these effects be linked to different public systems according to marital status or to the structure of new cohorts of pensioners?

We use an exhaustive administrative data (French income tax data) over the 2011-2015 period. We covered the entire population aged 50 or over, ie more than 20 million people. Using logistic regression on lifecourse events, we observe a pronounced reverse gender effect of income on the probability of forming an union: positive for men and negative for women. The income effect is mainly visible for divorced men compared to other marital statuses. As for young ages, union dissolution is more likely for unmarried couples than married, decreases in age. Regarding the loss of a spouse, we observe that the probability of widowhood for women is decreasing with income at each age, reflecting men’s differential mortality, and that the income gradient is steeper at older ages.

Presented in Session 87: Families in Later Life Stages