Mothers’ earnings trajectories after separation in Sweden and western Germany
By studying mothers’ labour earnings trajectories in Sweden and western Germany, this cross-national study reveals strengths and weaknesses in both countries’ social policy setting when it comes to protecting women from adverse effects of separation. Using large scale register data, we follow women who gave birth between 1992 and 2014 from one year prior to the birth of their first child until ten years after. Utilizing OLS and fixed effects models, we calculate robust long-term estimates of the effect of separation on mothers’ earnings trajectories. Results show that separation negatively affects moth-ers’ earnings trajectories in Sweden while it positively affects them in western Germany. In Sweden, although earnings of separated mothers’ lag behind those of partnered mothers, both groups are able to return to their levels of pre-birth earnings. In western Germany, however, both partnered and separated mothers’ earnings remain far below pre-birth levels. Our findings for subgroups based on pre-birth earnings quartiles reveal that in both countries, mothers with lower pre-birth earnings positions face the most pre-carious situations following separation. Based on the findings, we would like to empha-sise the importance of social policies that promote female economic autonomy through-out the life course while avoiding cuts in welfare support that run the risk of pulling away mothers’ economic safety net as they would hit single-headed families in lower earnings positions the hardest.