Working Paper

Heterogeneous effects of stroke and traumatic brain injury on spouses’ income and employment: Evidence from New Zealand

Published: 2024

It is well established that health events have large negative effects on labour market outcomes, but the impacts on partners’ labour market outcomes are not clear. It is important to understand impacts on partners in order to fully appreciate the financial implications of health events for households. To address these issues, we investigated the impacts of stroke and traumatic brain injury on couples’ total income and partners’ employment, earnings, benefit income, and total income using integrated administrative data for the New Zealand population.

Stroke and traumatic brain injury have large negative effects on couples’ total income. On average, there are minimal effects on partners’ labour market outcomes, suggesting that health events primarily affect household income through the income of the victim. However, we find that effects are differentiated by education and prior earnings. Partners with high education or pre-event earnings show large decreases in earnings and total income, with no change in benefit income. Conversely, those with low education or pre-event earnings experience no change or an increase in earnings, total income, and benefit income. Age and gender were not found to be moderators.

These findings suggest that population average labour market effects of health events are likely misleading. Couples’ responses to health events depend on their needs, resources, and the availability of support from the state. 


Barry Milne

Centre Member

Jack Lam

Centre Member

Janeen Baxter
Lisa Underwood

Centre Friend

Martin O’Flaherty
Nick Bowden

Centre Member

Yanshu Huang


O’Flaherty, M., Huang, Y., Underwood, L., Bowden, N., Lam, J., Baxter, J., & Milne, B. (2024). ‘Heterogeneous effects of stroke and traumatic brain injury on spouses’ income and employment: evidence from New Zealand’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2024-15. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.