If parents separate, children’s standard of living drops, study finds

If parents separate, children's standard of living drops, study finds

The separation of parents results in France in a lasting drop in the standard of living for their children, in particular for those who reside mainly with their mother, notes a study by France Stratégie published on Wednesday.

Children see their standard of living drop by 19% the year their parents break up, compared to the previous year, according to the study based on the analysis of the situation of 36,000 children concerned, between 2011 and 2019.

The decline is lasting: five years after separation, the children’s standard of living remains approximately 12% lower than what they knew before.

In the year of the breakup, the drop in standard of living is greater for children who live with their mother (-25%) compared to those who live with their father (-11%). However, the gap narrowed in the following years.

This is a consequence of the labor market, mothers’ salaries are lower than those of fathers“, explained the authors of the study Carole Bonnet and Anne Solaz, during a press conference. Before the separation, “mothers do not necessarily work or work part-time, the loss of spouse’s income is therefore more serious“.

Upon separation, there is an increased risk of entering a situation of poverty, in particular for children from households with an intermediate standard of living and those who are part of large siblings.

In total, some 29% of children find themselves in a situation of poverty the year their parents separate, compared to 13.5% in this situation the previous year.

However, several factors mitigate the decline in the standard of living of these children, notes the study.

The socio-fiscal system cushions the effects of separation for children from low-income families: their main parent often benefits from increased assistance (family allowances or increased RSA, greater activity bonus).

Alimony attenuates the effects for children from advantaged backgrounds because they can represent “a significant share of resources” of the custodial parent of the children.

The return of the custodial parent also eliminates the drop in standard of living, but this scenario only concerns 30% of children six years after the separation of their parents.

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Slide: Divorce: books to explain separation to children