Threat of divorce made women financially stronger
Single and divorced fourty-something mothers are significantly more financial vulnerable than their female friends who are married or remarried, an American scientific research recently reconfirmed. But yet, thanks to our human coping mechanism, they actually have avoided worse: since Unilateral Divorce Laws (UDLs) shift the ground for divorce from mutual consent to unilateral choice, women appear to be better savers than ever before.
Researchers of the universities of Groningen, Padova and Wuppertal were wondering if the UDL’s, that gained ground in Europe in the seventies instead of bilateral laws based on mutual consent, had impact on the way European consumers organize their personal finance. Yes they did, the results show. This is predominantly the case amongst women and more affluent European inhabitants, but it also counts for male partners and less affluent Europeans.
A financial bless or a curse?
The scientists used the data of Austrian, Belgian, Danish, German, Dutch, French and Spanish savers with an age between fifty and seventy. Only their data could be overseen for a longer period, because other European nationalities are not already dealing (that long) with UDL’s. For example the Swiss, the Italians and even the relatively progressive Swedes waited till 2010 with introducing UDL’s.
It was already clear that UDL’s were meeting a demand of more relational freedom for both men and women: divorce percentages strongly increased throughout Europe (between +20% and +40% in the past four decades). But did they affect our personal finance badly?
The researchers wanted to know which hypothesis from their colleagues seems to be right: on the one hand for example, scientists Cubeddu and Rios-Rull suggested in 1997 that UDL’s probably lead to married people building up a financial buffer out of precautions. On the other hand, Mazzocco and Yamaguchi (2013) reasoned that partners have a fifty-fifty share in marital properties, assuring that man and wife have commensurate ownership in assets, and therefore have an incentive to consume more instead of saving extra.
Fortunately, European households adapted quite well to the new situations: they have put more money at their savings accounts. One year exposure to UDL’s led to an increase of ca. €1500 of savings deposits, 6% more than married couples in countries that didn’t deal with UDL’s yet. Especially women and more affluent pairs were saving more money since.
Married women also appear to have improved their financial literacy since the introduction of UDL. Moreover, their participation on the labor market has grown significantly. In this way the UDL’s have also stimulated financial strength of women in Europe.