Are women from man-older unions economically disadvantaged following separation? Analysing benefit recipiency among ancestral and immigrant mothers in Sweden
Separation is often costly for mothers. That mothers are more likely to experience economic hardship after dissolution than fathers is thought to be partly due to gender dynamics in the household while the union is intact. Yet we know little of how economic consequences of separation play out for different groups of women, for instance by their partner age gap. Women who are younger than their male partner are often thought to have lesser agency, but evidence mostly comes from contexts where gender equality is low. Here we use register data from Sweden, to examine the role of partner age gaps for dissolution of childbearing unions, and the increase in benefit recipiency among women after dissolution. We ask whether women from man-older unions are at greater risk of economic disadvantage after separation, and whether these patterns vary for women with Swedish background and women with African or Middle Eastern background (among whom man-older unions are common). We find that man-older unions have higher dissolution risks among ancestral Swedish couples, whereas woman-older unions have higher risks among women of immigrant background. Benefit recipiency increases after separation, but we find no strong evidence of differences by age gaps for either ancestral Swedish or immigrant women.