The Changing Importance of Women's Labor Market Position for Union Formation: Evidence from European Cohorts Born between the 1940s and the 1980s

André Grow, University of Leuven
Jan Van Bavel, University of Leuven

Women’s economic role in society has changed fundamentally over the last decades. Starting around the 1960s, female participation in the labor force has increased and the income women contribute to their households has become more and more important for the economic well-being of their families. Valerie Oppenheimer theorized that changes in women’s economic role are likely to affect the foundations of family formation. She predicted that with the convergence in men’s and women’s economic roles, uncertainty in women’s labor market position would become an increasingly important impediment to marriage for them. In this paper, we test Oppenheimer’s prediction with data from the European Labour Force Survey in nine countries, for women born between 1943 and 1974. We focus on women’s unemployment risk as an indicator of the uncertainty that surrounds their position on the labor market. In line with Oppenheimer’s hypothesis, our results suggest that between 1992 and 2014, higher levels of unemployment risk became increasingly negatively related to the likelihood that women were married.

Presented in Session 121: Union Formation