Explaining differences in union dissolution between municipalities: the role of compositional, contextual and cross-level effects

Every year more than 30,000 marriages end in divorce and 40,000 unmarried couples that live together separate in the Netherlands. This breaking up of partnerships, termed union dissolution, has huge economic and emotional consequences. We aim to explain the large differences in the risk of union dissolution that exist between municipalities. We focus on characteristics that are expected to protect people against union dissolution, such as a high income, a high educational level, and a high level of religiosity. We study how these characteristics influence union dissolution rates across municipalities in three ways: as compositional effects at the level of the individual, as contextual effects at the level of the municipality, and as interaction between individual and contextual characteristics. We use linked register and survey data to test these hypotheses.

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