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Who Finds a New Partner?

How income and previous relationships influence the likelihood of repartnering

Increasing divorce and separation rates among couples make repartnering an important factor to understand the dynamics of partnership formation today. Using register data from Belgium, Inge Pasteels and Dimitri Mortelmans (2017) from the University of Antwerp, explore how economic resources and an individual’s previous union influence the likelihood of finding a new partner. Thereby, they contribute to existing literature about socioeconomic determinants of repartnering in two ways: (1) they compare the economic determinants of repartnering for divorcees with those of former cohabiters; (2) they elaborate on the concept of economic resources by considering two dimensions of income in a time-varying way –  amount of income and composition of income (from labour, unemployment benefits or integration income).

Copyright: jacoblund

The results of discrete time event history models show that repartnering is substantially different between the lowest and the highest income groups with significant gender differences. For men in higher income groups, the likelihood to find a new partner is higher than for men in lower income groups; for women, the relationship seems to be the other way around. Women in higher income groups are less likely to start a new relationship than women in lower income groups. These patterns have been found regardless of whether the people were married or cohabiting in their former relationship.

The sources of the income are also significant, with salary from a job being the main driver to having a new partner: labour market participation seems to offer – for men as well as for women – the opportunity to meet potential candidates for repartnering. Divorcees are also more likely to repartner than former cohabiters are, but when taking into consideration the composition of income, being divorced decreases the chances to start a new relationship in cases of irregular labour, irrespective of gender. Women who are working, however, are more likely to start a new relationship if they are divorced rather than separated, while men receiving unemployment benefits and integration income are more likely to find a new partner if they are divorced.

The authors conclude that because repartnering is substantially different between the lowest and the highest income groups and between people who have a job and those who do not, the repartnering “market” is evolving into a two-tier system with gender-specific patterns.