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Two Sides of the Same Coin? The Differing Roles of Assets and Consumer Debt in Marriage

Abstract

This study examines whether assets and consumer debts relate to change in marital satisfaction and conflict in opposing ways or in independent ways. It also tests whether these relationships are direct or mediated. Using a nationally representative longitudinal sample, the results indicate that assets and consumer debt influence change in marital outcomes in mostly independent rather than complementary ways. Consistent with prior literature, assets work indirectly by decreasing feelings of economic pressure. Consumer debt, however, directly predicts changes in marital conflict, even after controlling for variables in the family stress model. Debts also act indirectly by decreasing depression once economic pressure is included in the model. This unexpected suppressor effect suggests that the meaning of debts may not be straightforward.

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Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank David Eggebeen, Chalandra Bryant, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on a previous draft. A portion of this study was presented as a poster at the 2005 annual conference of the Population Association of America.

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Correspondence to Jeffrey Dew.

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Dew, J. Two Sides of the Same Coin? The Differing Roles of Assets and Consumer Debt in Marriage. J Fam Econ Iss 28, 89–104 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10834-006-9051-6

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Keywords

  • Assets
  • Conflict
  • Debts
  • Marriage
  • Satisfaction