Debt Concordance and Relationship Quality: A Couple-Level Analysis

Fenaba R. Addo, Xing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Despite a large literature on household finances and relationship quality, little is known about the degree of couple-level agreement on finances and its association with relationship outcomes. This study examines the relationship between financial concordance on household-level consumer debt and relationship quality, and the strength of the association after accounting for couple-level financial management practices. We applied hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to couple-level data from a sample of married and cohabiting couples with children (435 couples, 870 respondents) from the Marital and Relationship Survey (MARS) and found that concordance on total household credit card debt was common but not the norm, with 55% of couples agreeing on their outstanding debt amount within our sample. Debt concordant couples had greater relationship satisfaction even after accounting for the outstanding debt amount, financial management practices such as income pooling, and joint purchase decisions, as well as relationship characteristics like their marital status, relationship duration, and the number of children in the household. We also found that disagreements related to financial issues attenuated the debt concordance and relationship quality association. Our results highlight the importance of including objective measures of household finance when assessing relationship quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-423
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Family and Economic Issues
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Cohabitation
  • Concordance
  • Couples
  • Debt
  • Low-income
  • Relationship quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics


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