Social Change and the Experience of Unemployment

By Duncan Gallie; Catherine Marsh et al. | Go to book overview

5
The Relationship between a Husband's Unemployment and his Wife's Participation in the Labour Force

RICHARD B. DAVIES, PETER ELIAS, AND ROGER PENN


1. INTRODUCTION

It is a well-replicated observation (e.g. Greenhalgh 1980; Layard et al. 1980; Joshi 1984) that there is an inverse relationship between husbands' unemployment and the labour force participation of married women; wives of unemployed men in Britain are less likely to be engaged in paid work than the wives of employed men. For example, in the Women and Employment Survey ( Martin and Roberts 1984) 33 per cent of wives with unemployed husbands were working compared with 62 per cent of wives with working husbands. One interpretation of this result is that if wives of unemployed husbands had behaved exactly as the wives of working husbands, an additional 29 per cent of them would have been in paid employment. We refer to this summary figure as an 'employment shortfall'.

As Dilnot and Kell ( 1987) have argued, there could be a direct causal link between the labour force participation of married couples, in that it represents a rational economic response to the regulations governing the payment of transfer income 1 which prevailed in the period spanned by these studies. Another possibility is the 'macho' effect suggested by Barrère- Maurissonet al. ( 1985) in discussing similar results in France. They suggest that there

____________________
*
Chris Jones at the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick, helped to develop IDEAS, the software used for the manipulation of the work and life history survey data. Jon Barry and Brian Francis at the Centre for Applied Statistics, Lancaster University, contributed substantially to the development of the software package SABRE used for the statistical modelling reported in this chapter.

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