Abstract

This paper analyzes the causal relationship between unemployment and intimate-partner violence (IPV) introducing a gender-identity approach. I argue that local social predominance of different family structures (stem vs nuclear) in the past shaped distinct present cultural norms regarding the appropriate role of men and women, and that as a result IPV responds differently to changes in relative unemployment rates of men vs women. Coresidence of younger couples with in-laws in stem families in the past reduced the burden of household work, allowing a higher contribution of the younger wife to nondomestic work. In nuclear families, conversely, wives’activities were more confined to the domestic sphere. I construct an exogenous measure of unemployment and find heterogeneous impacts: for individuals living in territories with a nuclear-family tradition, a decrease in female unemployment relative to male unemployment increases IPV, potentially because men feel their traditional breadwinner role threatened. These effects are offset, and sometimes even reversed, for individuals living in provinces where the stem family was socially predominant in the past. I propose a new rationale for IPV in which violence is a way to reinstate the loss of utility generated by what some men perceive as an insult, and provide evidence in favor of this novel explanation.