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Divorce and Women’s Risk of Health Insurance Loss in the U.S.

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionLavelle, Bridget, and Pamela Smock. 2011. "Divorce and Women’s Risk of Health Insurance Loss in the U.S." PSC Research Report No. 11-734. March 2011.

Past research on the economic consequences of divorce for women has focused on changes in financial resources. This paper examines the impact of divorce on another important resource: health insurance coverage. Using fixed-effects models to account for selection of more disadvantaged women into divorce, we analyze monthly marital histories and health insurance experiences of nonelderly women in three recent panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation. Results show that women who divorce not only have lower baseline rates of insurance coverage than women who remain married, but also face a significant risk of health insurance loss in the months following divorce. Women without their own employer-based coverage prior to divorce, primarily those insured as dependents on a husband’s employer-based insurance policy, are particularly vulnerable to insurance loss, while stable full-time employment serves as a buffer against loss of coverage. In addition, results suggest that rates of insurance coverage remain depressed for nearly two years after divorce. This finding suggests that a significant number of women face ongoing difficulties in securing health insurance after divorce.

Country of focus: United States.

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