The Employment of Divorced Mothers in Germany: How Did the Reform of the Maintenance Law in 2008 Affect Behavior?

Michaela Kreyenfeld, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin
Anke Radenacker, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin

In cross-national comparisons, Germany has been characterized as a country with the most generous regulations on spousal alimony payments following divorce. The “weaker part” (usually the woman) was commonly granted a spousal support that related to the previous “standard of living”. Own employment was generally not required before the youngest child reached age eight and full-time employment not before age 15. A reform of the Civil Code in 2008 greatly curbed these rights by emphasizing the “individual responsibility” after divorce. While previously, full-time employment was not required for mothers with minor children, the new regulation assumes that the care-giving party enters the labor market when the youngest child reaches age three. This paper aims to answer the question whether the changes of maintenance law had an impact on the employment behavior of divorced mothers in Germany. To achieve this we use newly available administrative data from the German Pension Fund that includes complete marital, fertility and employment histories. Based on simple descriptive statistics, we map the employment and earning trajectories of women with children before and after divorce. The multivariate analysis is based on a difference-in-differences design to identify the effect of the 2008-reform. Our descriptive investigations have shown that divorce is followed by a substantial increase in women’s labor market participation, in particular in western Germany. The maintenance reform seems to have increased divorced mothers’ labor market participation. The next steps of our investigation explores the heterogeneity of the effects, in particular how age and number of children mediated behavior.

Presented in Session 71: Post-Separation Life Courses