Volume 45 - Article 9 | Pages 291–328

Who moves out and who keeps the home? Short-term and medium-term mobility consequences of grey divorce in Belgium

By Zuzana Zilincikova, Christine Schnor

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Date received:12 Feb 2021
Date published:23 Jul 2021
Word count:8489
Keywords:Belgium, divorce, housing, residential mobility, separation


Background: Research shows that women are more likely to move out after a separation, but the evidence is largely limited to younger ages. Little is known about short-term and medium-term mobility consequences in the case of a ‘grey divorce’.

Objective: Focusing on married couples separating at ages 50 to 70, we investigate who leaves the joint home upon separation and in the years immediately following separation. Considering ex-couple characteristics, we contrast the bargaining principle, which predicts higher moving-out rates for women, and the fairness principle, which points to the opposite.

Methods: Using Belgian register and census data, we study marital couples who separated in 2002 at ages 50 to 70 after a marriage of at least 15 years’ duration. We follow them for three years and estimate their moving patterns using multinomial logistic regressions and continuous-time models that account for the lagged effect of separation.

Results: Older women have a relative advantage in keeping the home at separation and maintain this advantage in the years following the separation. This finding contrasts with prior findings concerning younger ex-couples. Exceptions are women who are significantly younger than their ex-partner, whose children remain with the father, who live at their husband’s birthplace, and who rent rather than own the home.

Conclusions: Our findings point to a principle of fairness at play in the moving-out decision among older separating couples. Nonetheless, not all women benefit from this advantage.

Contribution: We show that post-divorce moving-out patterns are different at older ages. Looking beyond the immediate moment of separation allows for firmer conclusions to be reached about whether the home is eventually kept.

Author's Affiliation

Zuzana Zilincikova - Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium [Email]
Christine Schnor - Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Do tenants suffer from status syndrome? Homeownership, norms, and suicide in Belgium
Volume 46 - Article 16

» Remain, leave, or return? Mothers’ location continuity after separation in Belgium
Volume 42 - Article 9

» Stepfather or biological father? Education-specific pathways of postdivorce fatherhood
Volume 37 - Article 51

» Does waiting pay off for couples? Partnership duration prior to household formation and union stability
Volume 33 - Article 22

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