DS0802 - Inégalités, discriminations, intégration

Conjugal life, inequalities and economic decisions of couples aged 50 and over – Vieillir-à-deux

Baby boomers have had different marital and professional histories

The first generations of baby-boomers reached their sixties on the eve of the 21st century, which means more retirees in the future. The current generations of retirees are quite different from previous generations. Couples are less often married. Retired are more likely to have experienced a marital separation, several marriages or partnerships and formed a stepfamily. Their professional experiences also differ, for women who worked significantly more and men who spend more time unemployed.

Economic determinants and consequences of marital events over 50

Although research on the impact of careers on various dimensions of old age is plentiful, the impact of the changes in marital behavior has been much less studied. Older couples have received some attention in sociology, in particular by Caradec (1994, 1996), and in demography (Murphy et al. 2007, Tomassini et al 2004, Delbès Gaymu 2003, 2004). Yet, they have received relatively little attention in the economic literature. <br />Close to retirement age, the vast majority of people are in couples. Inequalities among partners in terms of income or household tasks, already present during the working life, can be accentuated or dampened at these ages. These elder couples make choices for which the determinants can be different that for younger couples. <br /> <br />This project proposes to study couples over 50, soon-to-be or already retired, along several dimensions, but by focusing on economic determinants. Retirement is a key moment in the life cycle and does not necessarily occur simultaneously for both spouses. A first theme describes the evolution in around retirement and at older ages: new types of unions, separations and family decomposition safer age 50. The description of the marital environment is essential for making demographic projections and for estimating the needs for dependence-related policies. Indeed, the presence of a spouse can delay the need for public assistance, as the spouse is often the primary caregiver. Retirement is also a time when traditional roles regarding the allocation of household tasks can be renegotiated, when one spouse retires before the other, or when one becomes dependent. A second theme deals with this time allocation decision for elderly couples. The end of the working life also brings financial consequences in terms of income and wealth, which is the subject of a third theme. Finally, we investigate the economic consequences of marital dissolution in old age resulting from separation or the death of a spouse.

We use diverse database surveys as well as administrative data. We also intend to mine specific surveys conducted such as the Wealth survey (Enquête Patrimoine,) or the French Family and Housing Survey EFL), and comparative European studies (GGS, EU-LFS, EU-SILC). Civil status data, which only recently became accessible (subscription-only) via INSEE's remote secure server (CASD), also constitute a rich source of information about the profiles of couples over a long period. However, there are still few longitudinal data that are detailed enough to monitor individuals over many years and on a large enough scale to observe the demographic events that interest us. We therefore intend to use the promising source constituted by administrative data. Some of the researchers have started and will continue to mine tax data (the Taxable Income and Welfare Benefits Survey and tax returns). Others will request access to Fideli a Statistical Directory of Housing which is another promising source for quantifying demographic events in the older population. The use of various existing sources as well as efforts to improve them are thus another aspect of the project. Lastly, wherever possible, international comparisons and other, richer, country sources will be used to give the project a comparative dimension.

The project also uses divers methodological approaches, both in terms of disciplines (economics, demography, sociology) and technical tools (qualitative approaches, advanced econometric modelling, econometric public policy evaluation). In particular, there will be an emphasis will be on indices of dispersion, which are more suitable for quantifying inequality in living standards than average estimators. The researchers will make use of anthropological methods to capture the social mechanisms at work behind statistically observed phenomena, in particular actors' self-perceptions, as well as econometric methods of public policy evaluation.

Here are some highlights of the work in progress
* Couple formation beyond the age of 50: re-partnering is largely more frequent for men than for women and this gap widens over age. The richest men are more likely to form a union, while the opposite is true for women. The wealthiest households more often contract their union (Pacs or marriage).
* Population forecast: However, the increase in marital breakdown is slowing down, while mortality continues to decline. In the future, the proportion of men living alone between 60 and 75 years of age should remain constant, while it would increase for the least educated women.
* Wealth and marital history: Of the population aged 50 and over, the accumulated wealth depends more on marital history than on professional history, especially for women.
* Divorce determinants of seniors : Two years after retirement, an increased risk of divorce is observed, more frequent when the woman retire before her husband.
* Time allocation among seniors: When a man retires before his wife, the division of domestic work is only changed at the margin.
* In the absence of public coverage and family assistance, only half of those aged 65 and over today could cover their dependency expenses with their income and wealth, financial and real estate.
* The assets of people over 60 living with a partner have been individualised over the period 1998-2010. This individualization is explained by a more frequent use of the regime of separation of property, but also by the increase in the own property of remarried couples. The intervention of legal professionals (notaries, lawyers, family judges) at the various stages of married life (divorce, remarriage) promotes this individualization as well as an unequal distribution of the couple's property to the detriment of women.

The project continues with many studies such as the effect of the transition to retirement on the stability of couples, the effect of the transition to retirement on the allocation of time in couples, the types of marriage contracts in Italy, or the role of the marital conjugal life course on wealth accumulation across cohorts. A workshop is planned at the end of 2019.

Publications
Gollac Sibylle, « Le patrimoine immobilier des femmes et des hommes en couple. Une analyse du genre de la propriété », in Bonvalet, Dietrich-Ragon et Lambert (dir.), Femmes et habitat, Editions de l’INED, à paraître.
Gollac Sibyl

The first generations of baby-boomers reached their sixties on the eve of the 21st century. The number of retirements increased over the last decade and will remain high until 2035, which means more retirees in the future. The current generations of retirees are quite different from previous generations. The couples are less often married. The increase in divorce rate and marital separations also means that retirees will be more likely to have experienced a marital separation, several marriages or partnerships and formed a stepfamily. Their professional experiences also differ, with the arrival of a generation of women who worked significantly more and partner who were more likely to spend more time unemployed.

Although research on the impact of careers on various dimensions of old age is plentiful, the impact of the changes in marital behavior has been much less studied. Older couples have received some attention in sociology, in particular by Vincent Caradec (1994,1996), and in demography (Murphy et al. 2007, Tomassini et al 2004, Delbès Gaymu 2003, 2004). Yet, they have received relatively little attention in the economic literature despite these changes.
Close to retirement age, the vast majority of people are in couples, comprising 75% of women and 85% of men among those aged 55 to 65 (Toulemon 2007). Inequalities among partners in terms of revenue or sharing household tasks, already present during the working life, can be accentuated or dampened at these ages. The risks of widowhood and dependence (Bonnet et. al. 2011) can become so strong that couples anticipate them by moving, adapting their homes or reducing their consumption. These elder couples thus make choices for which the determinants can be different that for younger couples.

This project therefore proposes to study couples over 50, soon-to-be or already retired, along several dimensions. Retirement is a key moment in the life cycle and does not necessarily occur simultaneously for both spouses. A first theme describes the evolution in around retirement and at older ages: new types of unions, separations and family decomposition safer age 50. The description of the marital environment is essential for making demographic projections and for estimating the needs for dependence-related policies. Indeed, the presence of a spouse can delay the need for public assistance, as the spouse is often the primary caregiver. Retirement is also a time when traditional roles regarding the allocation of household tasks can be renegotiated, when one spouse retires before the other, or when one becomes dependent. A second theme deals with this time allocation decision for elderly couples. The end of the working life also brings financial consequences in terms of income and assets, which is the subject of a third theme. Finally, we investigate the economic consequences of marital dissolution in old age resulting from separation or the death of a spouse.

The consequences of aging are numerous and cannot be adequately addressed by a single discipline or a single domain of expertise. If the approach adopted in this project is primarily economic, it also benefits from indispensable insights from sociology and demography. We have formed an interdisciplinary team of 14 researchers from six institutions: EHESS, the CES (University of Paris 1), CREST, CRESPPA, University of Cergy-Pontoise and INED. By bringing together a group of researchers around a common theme of older couples, this project proposes to develop specific competences on these theme to publish original research in international journals in demography, sociology and economics. It will also enlighten public debate concerning this population whose importance will only grow in the future. This could guide public policy in the fight against poverty among the elderly or access to information about the rights and consequences of different marital states.

Project coordinator

Institut National d'Etudes Démographiques (Laboratoire public)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

Institut National d'Etudes Démographiques
Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne
Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne

Help of the ANR 212,128 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2015 - 48 Months

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