Abstract: Is the Gender Gap Universal? Economic Consequences of Divorce and Separation for Women in Colombia Compared to 6 OECD Countries (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Is the Gender Gap Universal? Economic Consequences of Divorce and Separation for Women in Colombia Compared to 6 OECD Countries

Friday, January 18, 2019: 9:45 AM
Union Square 22 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Angela Guarin, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Background/Purpose: Broad agreement exists about the negative economic consequences of divorce/separation for women, who bear a disproportionate cost compared to men. For example, a recent study by de Vaus and colleagues (2017) shows declines in economic status for women post-divorce in all six OECD countries studied. Although there is agreement on the existing gender gap, the extant research is limited in two ways that we address in this study. First, prior work has focused on rich countries, largely ignoring whether there are gender gaps in developing countries; in this paper, we examine Colombia, a middle-income country, and we compare our results to those from the OECD study. Second, the previous work has generally examined economic well-being after divorce; we contribute to this literature by explicitly comparing the economic consequences of divorce with dissolving a cohabiting relationship. This is the first study to our knowledge that explores the effect of relationship dissolution in Colombia. We focus on 3 questions: (1)What is the effect of union dissolution on the equivalised household incomes of men and women? (2)Do women with children bear a disproportionate cost? (3)Does the effect of union dissolution differ by marriage versus cohabitation dissolution?

Data/Methods: We use three waves (2010, 2013 and 2016) of the Colombian Longitudinal Survey (ELCA) that provides information on about 10,000 households. Information on all waves is available for 5,404 women and 4,026 men. We use descriptive analysis and fixed-effects regression models to explore how changes in relationship status (ending marriage or cohabitation) are associated with changes to men’s and women’s economic well-being. We examine their post-divorce/dissolution status, comparing it to their pre-divorce/dissolution status. Given difficulties in fully accounting for selection into marriage, we emphasize the descriptive nature of our analyses and plan to consider propensity-score matching techniques.

Results: Examining the 521 women and 259 men in the data who experience relationship dissolution, preliminary results show that (1)in the short term after dissolution there is a 28% decrease in women’s mean equivalised household income, compared to a 9% increase for men. (2)Women living with children after dissolution (354 of 521) have a similar decrease in mean equivalised household income (26%) compared to women without children (31%). (3)The effect of marriage dissolution is similar to that of cohabitation dissolution for women. However, men exiting cohabitation have a higher increase (12%) in equivalised household income than men exiting marriage (5%).

Conclusions/Implications: Comparing results of this study to the effects of divorce on men and women´s economic well-being in other countries provided by de Vaus and colleagues (2017), we find similar effects when looking at pre and post-divorce equivalised household incomes. Men’s income increased following dissolution while women’s income decreased substantially, although less than the estimates provided for Germany (35%) and the USA (30%). After describing the Colombian income support system and how other policies might affect the gender gap both before and after separation, we present implications for policies oriented to supporting separated women in Colombia including child support, labor market, and childcare.