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Research on social inequality and the family has indicated that partners are relevant to individuals’ labor market decisions. Unemployment is a particularly interesting issue in the partnership context because the ensuing loss of income may affect the entire family. Against this background, we examine how singles and couples differ in terms of unemployment duration and how a partner’s income and labor market–related resources influence re-employment. Considering the gender and class differences in labor market participation, we are particularly interested in variations in partner support between men and women in differing economic circumstances.
Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP), we find that cohabitation accelerates re-employment, whereas marriage increases the prospect of re-employment only for men. More specifically, the partner’s labor market resources facilitate re-employment. Although partner income has no effect in absolute terms, unemployed men and women who were formerly minor earners refrain from reentering paid work. This pattern is more pronounced among low- and medium-income couples than among high-income families. Unemployment thus strengthens patterns of inequality both between and within couples.