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Rising Male Unemployment Results in a Reduction of Domestic Abuse against Women

Summary:
Domestic violence against women is less frequent in regions with rising male unemployment. These are the surprising findings of a study by Helmut Rainer, Director of the ifo Center for Labour and Demographic Economics, and his co-authors. The study also reveals that if women lose their jobs, their husbands tend to be more violent towards them. According to the study, a 3.7 percentage point increase in the male unemployment rate results in a 12 percent reduction in domestic violence against women. If, however, female unemployment rises by 3 percentage points, domestic abuse against women rises by 10 percent. “A man’s position is already weakened by unemployment, which makes him less ‘useful’ to his wife. Domestic abuse would

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Domestic violence against women is less frequent in regions with rising male unemployment. These are the surprising findings of a study by Helmut Rainer, Director of the ifo Center for Labour and Demographic Economics, and his co-authors.

The study also reveals that if women lose their jobs, their husbands tend to be more violent towards them. According to the study, a 3.7 percentage point increase in the male unemployment rate results in a 12 percent reduction in domestic violence against women. If, however, female unemployment rises by 3 percentage points, domestic abuse against women rises by 10 percent. “A man’s position is already weakened by unemployment, which makes him less ‘useful’ to his wife. Domestic abuse would diminish his value even further. Women who are unemployed and financially dependent on their husbands, on the other hand, are more likely to tolerate domestic violence as they have no other means of supporting themselves,” notes Rainer.

Domestic abuse primarily affects women aged between 16 and 49 years and is less frequent among the 49 to 59 year-old age group. Based on the study’s findings, Rainer concludes that: “Policies designed to enhance women’s employment security could also prove an important contributor to domestic violence reduction.”

The study is based on data from the British Crime Survey of 43 police districts of England and Wales from 2004 to 2011. “For England and Wales alone, the annual costs of domestic violence in terms of the health and social services, the legal system and civil procedures, as well as its economic multiplier effects, are estimated at GBP 5.8 billion,” notes Rainer.

The study was published in the Economic Journal, Volume 126, Issue 597. The study was awarded the Royal Economic Society Prize for best paper published in the Economic Journal in 2016.

Publication

  1. Anderberg, Dan, Helmut Rainer, Jonathan Wadsworth and Tanya Wilson, "Unemployment and Domestic Violence: Theory and Evidence", Economic Journal 126 (597), 2016, 1947-1979 | Details

Clemens Fuest
Clemens Fuest took over from Hans Werner Sinn as chairman of the IFO Institute in April 2016. He is professor at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Munich.

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