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Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Couples healthier than singles

Marital status plays a vital role in helping people cope with disability and health shocks in economic terms, says a new report.

University of British Columbia (UBC) economists Giovanni Gallipoli and Laura Turner found that in marriages, "main-earners" (husbands) tend to transfer income and compensate "second-earners" (wives).

The second-earners, in turn, provide conditional time and care in periods of need (such as illness and disability of main-earner).

Gallipoli and Turner based their findings on data from the Canadian Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID).

The researchers also find that the relative value of marriage changes in different ways for men and women as they age. Marriages become more stable the longer the couple is together, and uncertainty is resolved.

"Low-risk" marriages, where the main-earner is in a low-risk health state, are more stable and encounter less renegotiation and termination of marital contracts at every stage of the life-cycle.

Men who are at high risk of receiving health and disability shocks value marriage early in life, when they are poor in both assets and work experience, says a UBC release.

As these husbands age, their gains from marriage decrease as "buffer stocks" of human capital and assets are accumulated and they become more likely to trigger a renegotiation of the marital contract.

These later renegotiations are referred to by the authors as a "midlife crisis."

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