A happy relationship is what most people strive for in private life. At the same time, we try hard to succeed in our jobs. If we are lucky, we find happiness in both departments, at least for some time. What is well known is that for this to happen, working life and private life need to strike a balance, so that none of them comes at a constant cost for the other. Much less attention has been paid to interference between working life and private life that might in fact be advantageous, that is if partners are also work-linked.
In fact, many of us are work-linked in some form, as our partners work in the same industry, have the same occupation or even the same employer. Some prominent examples may come to mind, such as Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin, the copreneurial couple who invented the first Covid-19 vaccine, or lawyers Ruth and Marty Ginsburg whose careers mutually benefited from sharing the same occupation.
But are these links actually beneficial and, if yes, in what area of life do they pay off? Is a work link too much of an interference between private life and work life when no line can be drawn between the two areas? Juliane Hennecke and Clemens Hetschko answer these questions in a new IZA discussion paper.
The two researchers from Auckland University of Technology and University of Leeds analyze the well-being of work-linked couples in Germany. Based on nationally representative data, the analysis focuses on industry-linked and occupation-linked couples, as compared to couples where both partners work in different fields. To identify advantages and disadvantages in different areas, the authors examine people’s satisfaction with their incomes, jobs, family lives and leisure, besides general life satisfaction.
Higher satisfaction, but not for the self-employed
The study confirms what the authors call the ‘power couple hypothesis’. Various data analyses identify a positive effect of being work-linked on overall life satisfaction, which seems to be especially driven by much higher income satisfaction in work-linked couples. Job satisfaction also benefits from the link, unlike satisfaction with leisure and family life.
The positive effects of being work-linked are most pronounced in high-skilled workers. These results imply that work-linked partners may help each other climb the career ladder, presumably by providing mutual support, sharing networks and information. Strikingly, being work-linked to the partner does not benefit self-employed workers. This might be an example of a work link being too close.
According to the authors, their findings may also hold implications for recruitment policies. When hiring specialized talents who need to relocate, firms often provide job search support for partners. Given the well-being effects of being work-linked, there may be a case for seeking job opportunities in the same industry, as happier workers are also more productive workers.