Jonas Voßemer, Anna Baranowska-Rataj
Partner’s unemployment and well-being: the mediating role of relationship quality and stability

CEDAR Working Papers; 2020:4
Umeå University

Objective: This study examined relationship quality and stability as mediators of the crossover effects of partner’s unemployment on well-being. Background: Previous longitudinal studies have focused on reduced financial resources and the deterioration of the unemployed partner’s well-being as reasons for crossover effects. This study combined insights from family research on the impact of negative economic events on relationship functioning and the effects of relationship quality and stability on well-being, to provide an additional explanation and improve our understanding of the underlying relationship processes. Method: Data on 5,392 couples from the German Family Panel pairfam (2008/09- 2018/19) and fixed effects models were used to estimate the impact on well-being of the partner’s transition to unemployment. Furthermore, the product method for mediation analysis was implemented to examine the indirect effects of a variety of interpersonal behavioral and intrapersonal cognitive measures of relationship functioning. Results: The partner’s transition to unemployment exerted negative effects on wellbeing. These were more pronounced in women than in men, which was explained by gender-specific effects of the partner’s unemployment on relationship functioning rather than different effects of relationship quality and stability on well-being for women and men. Conclusion: Ignoring the crossover effects of unemployment leads to an underestimation of its societal costs. Explanations should be sought at the couple level as relationship functioning partly mediated the crossover effects. The way in which men’s and women’s unemployment affected relationship functioning may improve our understanding of gender differences in crossover effects.