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Home-ownership and housing wealth of elderly divorcees in ten European countries

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2016

Department of Sociology, Tilburg University, The Netherlands.
Department of Sociology, Tilburg University, The Netherlands.
Address for correspondence: Barend Wind, Department of Sociology, Tilburg University, Postbus 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands E-mail:


Recent research has shown that divorce reduces the likelihood of home-ownership. Even in later life, ever-divorced men and women display lower home-ownership rates than their married counterparts. There is, however, a lack of knowledge about the consequences of divorce for a majority of divorcees: those who remain in home-ownership or move back into home-ownership after an episode in rental housing. This paper investigates the economic costs of divorce by focusing on the housing wealth of ever-divorced home-owners in later life (age 50 and over), against the background of changing welfare and housing regimes. The empirical analysis is based on data from ten European countries that participated in the third and fourth waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE 2007/8 and 2011/2). Our analyses support an association between divorce experience and lower housing wealth holdings for men and women who remain in home-ownership after a divorce, or re-enter home-ownership after a spell in rental housing. This means that a divorce has negative housing consequences for a broader range of individuals than thus far assumed. In countries with a dynamic housing market and a deregulated housing finance system, ever-divorced home-owners are worse off than their married counterparts. In these countries, more elderly individuals with a weaker financial situation are able to remain in or regain access to (mortgaged) home-ownership, but at the cost of lower housing equity. Further research should focus on the implications (e.g. for wellbeing, economic position) of such cross-country variations.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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