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

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

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.


Late-Life Marital Behaviours inFrance : Gender and Income Inequalities

The large baby-boomgenerations are now arriving at retirement ages. Not only have they experiencedmore often unmarried histories or union dissolutions than previous generationsduring their working-age but they also “bring” new conjugal behaviors duringthe retirement period. This greater diversity of conjugaltrajectories are going to profoundly change thestructure of the population over the age of 50 and the life-course events atolder ages with important implications for living conditions and gender inequalities.

Demographicevents at older ages are still poorly studied (Bowen & Jensen 2017,Brown & Lin 2012, Gaymu et al., 2008; Vespa, 2012,) and this article aims at describing the conjugal situations of people over50 in France, especially at oldest ages, as well as the marital transitions(unmarried couple, marriage, separation, divorce and widowhood), with a particular attention to the role of income and gender.Are economic resources playing a role on these transitions at later ages? Arethe effects different for men and women? Can they be linked to different publicsystems according to marital status or to the structure of new cohorts ofpensioners?

Data

One reason for thescarce literature on the marital behaviours at older ages may be the scarcityof demographic events of great ages, such as the formation of a new couple orits dissolution, which makes these events unrecognizable in general populationsurveys. We use here exhaustive administrative data: French (income  andresidential) tax data, composed of the entire population, aged 50 or over, ormore, ie more than 20 million people, covering the 2011-2015 period. We have very precise information on income at the individual andhousehold level, and the composition of the household.

Some preliminary results

Unionformation after age 50

At all ages, theprobability of forming an union for men is higher than that of women, even atthe highest ages. This may be related to a sex ratio more favorable to theseages. Among these couple formations, the proportion opting for a marriage ishigher for men than for women, higher for previously divorcees than widow orwidowers. It is possible that these late marriages are related to the awarenessof the existence of survivor’s pension. As the latter is granted only tomarried individuals; a number of individuals "regularize" theirsituation at retirement ages. But this remains to be investigated.

Figure 1 – Unionformation after age 50, according to gender

Using a logisticregression, we confirm that the probability of forming an union is decreasing inage (table 1). Widowed are less likely to form an union than single. The likelihoodfor divorcees is higher. This result holds for both men and women. We observe agender reverse effect for income: while the likelihood to form a partnershipincreases in income for men, it decreases for women.  Interacting income andmarital status, we observe that the income effect ismainly visible for the divorced men: the richest are more likely to form anunion. The effect is less obvious for widowers, with a U shaped pattern.Reasons for this shape are under investigation

Table 1 - Probabilityof forming an union, according to gender

 

Men

 

Women

 

Age (ref=50-59)

60-69

-0,065

***

-0,289

***

70-79

-0,443

***

-1,185

***

80-89

-1,069

***

-2,324

***

90-99

-1,645

***

-3,096

***

100et +

-3,183

***

-4,215

***

Legal marital status (ref=single)

    Widowed

-0,243

***

-0,226

***

 Divorced

0,319

***

0,253

***

Children under 18 years old (réf. No)

1,110

***

0,826

***

Children over 18 years old (ref. no)

0,784

***

0,906

***

Occupational status (ref=retired)

Worker

0,249

***

0,350

***

Self employed

0,324

***

0,390

***

Worker and del-employed

0,367

***

0,412

***

Unemployed

0,177

***

0,308

***

Active and unemployed

0,426

***

0,417

***

Active and retired

0,314

***

0,358

***

Unemployed and retired

0,191

***

0,392

***

Three statuses during the year

0,601

***

0,379

***

Other situations

0,603

***

1,003

***

Individual income (deciles – ref D5)

1

-0,187

***

0,166

***

2

-0,139

***

0,132

***

3

-0,072

***

0,089

***

4

-0,056

**

0,083

***

6

0,009

-0,079

***

7

0,039

*

-0,224

***

8

0,066

***

-0,294

***

9

0,128

***

-0,420

***

10

0,161

***

-0,621

***

        _cons

-3,870

***

-4,429

***

N

1,840,724

 

4,159,328

 

Uniondissolution after age 50

The probability ofdissolution by marital disruption decreases with age (figure 2). It is slightlyhigher for men whose partners are a bit younger but the risks become similarafter age 70. This decreasing trend with age isobserved for both married and unmarried unions but the risk of uniondissolution is much higher for unmarried ones.

Figure 2 - Probabilityof union dissolution, according to age, gender and type of union

Presented in Session 1115: Families and Households