Wealth and Debt Homophily, Gender Equality, and Relationship Stability

Although the relative economic standing of romantic partners influences relationship stability, previous family scholarship has largely overlooked the role of wealth and debt, two distinct economic characteristics with important implications for social stratification. We test how asymmetric accumulation of wealth and debt between partners influences marital and cohabitation stability based on gender norms, economic independence, and financial strain perspectives. Using data from the 1996-2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), we find support for the economic independence perspective as both female- and male wealth-dominant couples are at an increased risk of dissolution over wealth-homophilous couples. However, for married couples, female wealth-dominant couples are significantly less stable than male-dominant couples. For cohabiting couples, heterophily is less consequential and there is little difference between male and female-dominant couples. Asymmetric holdings in debt relate differently to stability than asymmetry in wealth.