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Gender Gap in Equivalent Household Income for Those Who Have Experienced Divorce

- a quantitative analysis using NFRJ98, NFRJ03, and NFRJ08
TANAKA Sigeto <http://www.sal.tohoku.ac.jp/~tsigeto/>
(Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University)
The 20th Conference of the Japan Society of Family Sociology (Seijo University, Tokyo) (2010-09-12)
Thematic Session (2): Coordinated by SHIMAZAKI Naoko
Date and Time: 2010-09-12 (9:00 .. 11:00)
Location: Seijo University (Room 731)

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(This is a tentative translation in English. See the Japanese page for the original text printed in pp. 104–105 of the conference proceedings.)

The objective of this study is to conduct a quantitative analysis of the gap in living standards between divorced men and women as well as the factors contributing to this gap. In recent Japan, there has been a trend towards an increasing possibility of divorces [1]; if this trend continues, it is highly possible that in the near future, a large proportion of marriages in the Japanese society will end in divorce [2]. The first goal of this study is to determine the extent to which an increasing divorce rate serves to broaden the economic gender gap by qualitatively examining the economic situations of divorced men and women. The second goal addresses legal and policy-related concerns, that is, the extent to which the equity-oriented reform of financial provision on divorce advocated by law scholars [3] [4] contributes to gender equality.

We are well aware that there is a great gender gap in post-divorce living standards. Although this fact has become a generally accepted theory among people, there has been no body of scientific evidence. There has, however, been the large number of empirical studies in an adjacent field of research, that is, the economic status of devorced single-mother households, because this field is the subject of great political interest. Some studies have made use of the results of such kind of research, extrapolating the factors that lead to poverty in single-mother households, to explain the factors behind the economic disparity among divorced men and women [5] [6].

In examining the hypothesized factors from single-mother household studies, Tanaka [7] [8] made the first attempt to directly analyze the economic status after divorce using Japanese national representative data. The analyses were on equivalent household income of men and women after divorce. Data were drawn from SSM2005-J [7] and NFRJ03 [8]. The results of these analyses clarified that the post-divorce equivalent household income of men is 40% to 55% higher than that of women. The primary reasons for this gender gap were as follows: (1) in most cases, it was the woman’s responsibility to take care of the children, and (2) few women worked as regular long-term employees. These factors exerted a great effect after controlling the effect by the level of education. In addition, pre-marriage employment status did not exert a significant effect. The results of these analyses indicate that changes in economic situations that arise during marriage lead to a post-divorce inequality in living standards. These results also suggest that the new principle for financial provision on divorce advocated by Suzuki [3] and Motozawa [4] could dramatically reduce the gender gap. This is because the principle demands an equitable settlement to level out all the disparity in earning potential that arises during marriage and the economic burden of caring for children (including the opportunity cost for an interrupted career or for shorter working hours).

These analyses have reported qualitatively stable results. However, these results are not quantitatively stable. The estimate values produced by the analyses differ widely. Therefore, we have not received reliable answers regarding the extent either of the post-divorce economic gap between men and women or of the effects exerted by the factors influencing this gap.

In this study, we use data from the 1999, 2004, and 2009 iterations of the National Family Research of Japan (NFRJ98, NFRJ03, and NFRJ08), aiming to achieve quantitatively stable estimate values. The numbers of respondents who had experienced divorce in NFRJ98, NFRJ03, and NFRJ08 are 473, 494, and 463, respectively. We have thus ensured an adequate number of cases to obtain statistically reliable estimate values through multivariate analysis. We will conduct multiple regression analyses on the natural logarithm of equivalent household income (i.e., the annual household income in the year preceding the survey divided by the square root of the number of people in the household) as a dependent variable. This analytical approach emulates that of Tanaka [7] [8]. Based on the results from the analyses, we will discuss the determinants of the living standards of those who have experienced divorce, the causal structure of the gender gap, and policy implications for gender equality.


The data for this secondary analysis, National Family Research of Japan 1998 (NFRJ98) and National Family Research of Japan 2003 (NFRJ03) by the NFRJ Committee, Japan Society of Family Sociology, was provided by the Social Science Japan Data Archive, Information Center for Social Science Research on Japan, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo. The author gratefully acknowledge the permission for the use of the National Family Research of Japan 2008 (NFRJ08) data by the NFRJ Committee, Japan Society of Family Sociology.


See the Japanese page.


NFRJ, standard of living, gender

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