Economic Disadvantage and Relationship Outcomes among Married Couples

David J. Fein, Abt Associates Inc.
Daniel B. Gubits, Abt Associates Inc.
Futoshi Yumoto, Abt Associates Inc.

The strong association between economic disadvantage and marital dissolution risks is well documented, but there has been practically no research on why poverty makes it more difficult to sustain marital relationships. In this paper, we use longitudinal data on 4,000 married couples from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) to explore the role of economic disadvantage. An initial step in the analysis is to construct two multidimensional indices measuring disadvantage at the couple- and neighborhood-level. Using a regression decomposition technique, the main analysis assesses the degree to which economic disadvantage (1) is associated directly with a wide range of factors hypothesized to affect marital outcomes and (2) moderates the effects of these factors on marital happiness, divorce disinclination, and marital stability. This study is the first, to our knowledge, to explore formally the connections between economic disadvantage and marriage outcomes.

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Presented in Session 98: Promoting Healthy Marriages: Can Government Play a Role?