Origins and Mechanisms of Social Influences in Couples: The Case of Retirement Decisions

The interdependence between partners raises considerable interest in the sociology of life course, work, and families. Partner influences play a particularly important role in the work domain, because each partner’s work decisions have profound effects on the couple as a whole. In contrast to previous research, this article pays detailed attention to the role a partner plays in workers’ labour market decisions by analysing the case of early retirement decisions. We hypothesized that partners’ preferences for older workers’ retirement originate from altruism and self-interest. Moreover, we expected that partners influence older workers’ early retirement behaviour via persuasion and pressure. To adequately estimate partners’ and workers’ preferences for the worker’s retirement, we used an instrumental variable approach. This was possible because we collected multi-actor longitudinal data from a large representative sample of older workers and their partners in the Netherlands. The results support that spousal preferences originate in altruism and self-interest and that partners influence workers through persuasion and pressure. Gender differences in origins and mechanisms of partner influence are also discussed.The interdependence between partners raises considerable interest in the sociology of life course, work, and families. Partner influences play a particularly important role in the work domain, because each partner’s work decisions have profound effects on the couple as a whole. In contrast to previous research, this article pays detailed attention to the role a partner plays in workers’ labour market decisions by analysing the case of early retirement decisions. We hypothesized that partners’ preferences for older workers’ retirement originate from altruism and self-interest. Moreover, we expected that partners influence older workers’ early retirement behaviour via persuasion and pressure. To adequately estimate partners’ and workers’ preferences for the worker’s retirement, we used an instrumental variable approach. This was possible because we collected multi-actor longitudinal data from a large representative sample of older workers and their partners in the Netherlands. The results support that spousal preferences originate in altruism and self-interest and that partners influence workers through persuasion and pressure. Gender differences in origins and mechanisms of partner influence are also discussed.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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