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Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress

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  • Betsey Stevenson
  • Justin Wolfers

Abstract

This paper exploits the variation occurring from the different timing of divorce law reforms across the United States to evaluate how unilateral divorce changed family violence and whether the option provided by unilateral divorce reduced suicide and spousal homicide. Unilateral divorce both potentially increases the likelihood that a domestic violence relationship ends and acts to transfer bargaining power toward the abused, thereby potentially stopping the abuse in extant relationships. In states that introduced unilateral divorce we find a 8-16 percent decline in female suicide, roughly a 30 percent decline in domestic violence for both men and women, and a 10 percent decline in females murdered by their partners. Copyright (c) President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 121 (2006)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 267-288

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:121:y:2006:i:1:p:267-288

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  1. Justin Wolfers, 2003. "Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates? A Reconciliation and New Results," NBER Working Papers 10014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert J. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 615, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  3. Jeffrey A. Miron, 1999. "Violence and the U.S. Prohibition of Drugs and Alcohol," NBER Working Papers 6950, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Kelly Bedard & Olivier DeschĂȘnes, 2005. "Sex Preferences, Marital Dissolution, and the Economic Status of Women," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(2).
  5. Lundberg, S. & Pollak, R.A., 1991. "Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 91-08, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  6. Donohue, John J. & Levitt, Steven D., 2000. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt00p599hk, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  7. Lundberg, Shelly & Pollak, Robert A, 1994. "Noncooperative Bargaining Models of Marriage," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 132-37, May.
  8. Sara Markowitz, 1999. "The Price of Alcohol, Wife Abuse, and Husband Abuse," NBER Working Papers 6916, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Peters, H Elizabeth, 1986. "Marriage and Divorce: Informational Constraints and Private Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 437-54, June.
  10. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Linda Waite, 1995. "Does marriage matter?," Demography, Springer, vol. 32(4), pages 483-507, November.
  12. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Soss, Neal M, 1974. "An Economic Theory of Suicide," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 83-98, Jan.-Feb..
  13. Pollak, Robert A, 1994. "For Better or Worse: The Roles of Power in Models of Distribution within Marriage," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 148-52, May.
  14. Shelly Lundberg & Robert A. Pollak, 1996. "Bargaining and Distribution in Marriage," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 139-158, Fall.
  15. Thomas S. Dee, 2003. "Until Death Do You Part: The Effects of Unilateral Divorce on Spousal Homicides," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(1), pages 163-182, January.
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