Housing Affordability, Housing Tenure Status and Household Density: Are Housing Characteristics Associated with Union Dissolution?

  • Sandra KrapfEmail author
  • Michael Wagner


Housing is an important dimension of social inequality between couples, but it has been largely ignored in prior research on union dissolution. Extending the literature that controlled for the stabilizing effect of homeownership, we investigate whether housing, measured as household density, housing tenure and housing affordability, is related to the risk of union dissolution. Based on data from the German Family Panel (pairfam), we analyze 3441 coresidential partnerships. We run discrete-time event-history models to assess the risk of separation within a time frame of 7 years. Housing affordability is found to be negatively related to the risk of union dissolution among couples, as those couples with a high residual income (i.e., household income after deducting housing costs) were less likely to separate than those with a lower residual income. By contrast, household density is found to be unrelated to separation. In line with previous research, our findings indicate that homeowners had more stable relationships than tenants. The analysis shows that this was the case regardless of whether the home was jointly owned or was owned by one partner only.


Housing cost Household crowding Homeownership Separation Socioeconomic Situation 



We thank Lisa Schmid, Philipp Lersch, Nicole Hiekel and the PartnerLife team members for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this paper. This paper uses data from the German Family Panel pairfam, coordinated by Josef Brüderl, Sonja Drobnič, Karsten Hank, Bernhard Nauck, Franz Neyer und Sabine Walper. Pairfam is funded as a long-term project by the German Research Foundation (DFG).


The research for this paper is part of the project “Partner relationships, residential relocations and housing in the life course” (PartnerLife). Principal investigators are Clara H. Mulder (University of Groningen), Michael Wagner (University of Cologne) and Hill Kulu (University of Liverpool). PartnerLife is supported by a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO, Grant No. 464-13-148), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, Grant No. WA1502/6-1) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC, Grant No. ES/L01663X/1) in the Open Research Area Plus scheme.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mannheim Center for European Social ResearchUniversity of MannheimMannheimGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Sociology and Social PsychologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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