Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019 - , University of Essex

Double trouble: does job loss lead to union dissolution and vice versa?

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Day:Wed 3 Jul
  • Lewis Anderson, University of Oxford

A now-substantial literature claims that job loss and union dissolution each increase individuals’ risk of the other, highlighting that negative life events can cascade and result in an accumulation of disadvantage and heightened vulnerability. We advance the evidence in two ways. First, we investigate whether these associations might rather be accounted for by unmeasured factors which jointly predispose individuals to the two events. Second, we distinguish between state and event independent variables, and evaluate their impacts separately. Using Understanding Society and the harmonised British Household Panel Survey, we simultaneously model both processes: does job loss (or being unemployed) lead to union dissolution, and does union dissolution (or being divorced/separated) lead to job loss? To investigate the role of unobserved, time-invariant confounders, we model the individual-specific effects as random variables allowed to correlate across the models for the two outcomes. Upon allowing such cross-process correlations, we find no evidence for an effect of union dissolution (or the state it may lead to) on risk of job loss. The association between being unemployed and union dissolution follows a U-shaped curve over duration among men but a nonlinear increase among women, suggesting that a persistent gender norm may make even a short spell of male unemployment unacceptable for some. Job loss per se is not associated with union dissolution once time-invariant unobservables are taken into account, likely because job loss often does not lead to unemployment – it is the latter in particular which may spill over from the economic realm and destabilise partnerships.