2010 Small Grants Competition: The Effects of Recessions and Recoveries on the Well-Being of Workers and Families
Kristen Harknett, Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
Daniel Schneider, Doctoral Candidate
Department of Sociology, Princeton University
Economic Distress and Relationship Quality: Evidence from the Great Recession
The Great Recession has taken a serious toll on household finances as reflected in high rates of unemployment and widespread foreclosure activity. Sociological research dating from the Great Depression and the Iowa Farm Crisis suggests that this economic distress may also have pernicious effects on relationship quality. Although most research on economic crises and relationship quality focuses on the direct effects of income and job loss, other research suggests that families may also be affected indirectly by the economic uncertainty that comes with living in a time of elevated unemployment and increased foreclosure. However, no research to date has parsed out the effects of realized economic distress from those of economic uncertainty. Further, though cohabitation is now a modal life course experience, very little research examines how economic distress affects relationship quality in non-marital unions. In order to investigate these unanswered questions, we combine longitudinal data on economic distress, relationship quality, and demographic characteristics from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) with area-level unemployment and foreclosure data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and private-sector databases.
Our project focuses on parents of young children in urban areas, a large proportion of whom are low-income and racial/ethnic minorities. In our sample, economic considerations loom large in relationships as these parents report that money is their most common source of relationship conflict. Our study will demonstrate the ways that economic distress and economic uncertainty affect the quality of parental relationships. Effects of the economic downturn on parents’ relationship quality are consequential because they affect parental wellbeing, parents’ relationship stability, and, ultimately, the living arrangements and environments in which young children are raised.