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Divorced women suffer the most, financially and mentally

By on 14 December 2016

Divorced women in the UK, having been part of high income households, suffer the largest and most persistent windfalls in their living standard compared to those from the low income households. Whereas divorced men, both from low and high income households, succeed to raise their standard of living.

This is concluded by researchers of the University of Cambridge, published at Researchgate in September. They used data from 18 waves of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) to examine changes around the time of divorce for men and women in three income groups.

It’s not surprising the financial damage of divorce for men is less severe than for women, whether or not we take housing in mind. Also among men from higher income households the loss is higher than those from lower income households, but the difference with women is that both groups succeed in recovering and in the end accumulate more wealth.

Divorced: mitigating losses

To mitigate the financial losses from divorce, men are more likely to move to their parent’s home or live with other relatives or unrelated adults. In the lower and middle income groups, men are 4.5 times more likely than women to live with their extended family. A man’s household income would be 13% lower on average if he did not live with relatives, and 15% lower if he did not live with unrelated adults. Those women who do live with other adults also gain from doing so.

For women previously living in a lower income household, the financial situation is mostly improved after repartnering: women from the lowest income group find a new partner who adds around 38% to their household income, whilst divorce reduced their income by only 19%. The new partners of women from the highest income group generally do not have income which does fully compensate for the income lost at divorce.

But also divorced men, again also from former lower income households, can prosper: the lowest income men see a 29% income increase from repartnering, whereas the highest income men experience a 14% income decrease.

Marital home

Both men and women are more likely to leave their home after divorce. 70% of men and 64% of women move out of their marital house within 3 years of a relationship breakdown, independent of how much income they generate.

However there is proof that women with dependent kids, at the time of separation, are more likely than their former husbands to stay in the marital home. Women with dependent children also more likely to gain access to social housing.

In contrast, when a separating couple doesn’t have dependent children, the man is more likely to remain. “Given that this group of couples includes those who have older children who have left home, this raises concerns for the impact of divorce for older women.”, the researchers write.

Mental stress

The researchers also examined the mental stress experienced during a divorce. Also from this perspective, women seem to struggle the most, as the graph below shows. Compared to men, also the income of the former partner has more impact on the stress of women.




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Bas van Essen

Savingsmonitor is a news blog reporting about savings behavior and statistics across whole the European Union. Bas van Essen is responsible for the content. Bas is a former business reporter, who covered the Dutch startup scene, the job market and personal finance. Bas served the Dutch Financial Times ('Financieele Dagblad'), the Dutch 'Financiële Telegraaf', Sprout.nl, Intermediair.nl and IDG. He followed a Master Communication Science and MBA Big Data & Business Analytics at the University of Amsterdam.