Hard Times and Harder Minds: Material Hardship and Marital Well-Being among Low-Income Families in South Korea

Joyce Shim, Dominican University
RaeHyuck Lee, Columbia University
JaeSeung Kim, University of Chicago

Experiencing material hardship may bring various negative consequences for married couples and family members. However, little is known about the association between material hardship and marital wellbeing among low-income families in Korea. Using a nationally representative sample from the Korean Welfare Panel Study (KOWEPS), this study therefore examines how material hardship is associated with marital wellbeing among low-income families, separately for male household heads and their female wives. Overall, we find that experiencing any material hardship is strongly associated with lower levels of satisfaction of both family life and spousal relationship, consistently for both male and female groups. We also find that depression and self-esteem partially mediate the associations in both groups. In addition, we find that, among individual items of material hardship, experiencing difficulty in paying bills is an important risk factor for satisfaction of family life and spousal relationship for female wives, but not for male household heads.

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 Presented in Session P1. Marriage, Unions, Families, and Households