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Divorce Laws and the Structure of the American Family

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  • Stéphane Mechoulan

Abstract

This paper investigates the impact of no-fault divorce laws on marriage and divorce in the United States. I propose a theory that captures the key stylized facts of the rising then declining divorce rates and the apparent convergence of divorce rates across the different divorce regimes. The empirical results suggest that a shift from fault to no-fault divorce increased the odds of divorcing for those couples who married before the shift. The analysis further suggests that those couples who marry after the shift to a no-fault regime, in turn, sort themselves better upon marriage, which offsets the direct effect of the law on divorce rates. Consistent with that selectivity argument, after a switch to a no-fault divorce regime, women get married later in life. These results hold for the law that governs property division and spousal support. The law that governs divorce grounds does not seem to matter significantly.

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File URL: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/resolve?id=doi:10.1086/498832
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Legal Studies.

Volume (Year): 35 (2006)
Issue (Month): 1 (01)
Pages: 143-174

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:35:y:2006:p:143-174

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Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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Cited by:
  1. Martin Halla & Johann Scharler, 2008. "Marriage, Divorce and Interstate Risk Sharing," NRN working papers 2008-03, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  2. Cáceres-Delpiano, Julio & Giolito, Eugenio P., 2008. "The Impact of Unilateral Divorce on Crime," IZA Discussion Papers 3380, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Eric Langlais, 2010. "On unilateral divorce and the “selection of marriages” hypothesis," Discussion Papers (REL - Recherches Economiques de Louvain) 2010031, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  4. Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates? A Reconciliation and New Results," Research Papers 1819, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  5. Alessandra Voena, 2011. "Yours, Mine and Ours: Do Divorce Laws Affect the Intertemporal Behavior of Married Couples?," Discussion Papers 10-022, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  6. Fisher, H., 2011. "Divorce Property Division and the Decision to Marry or Cohabit," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1101, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  7. Audrey Light & Yoshiaki Omori, 2009. "Economic Incentives and Family Formation," Working Papers 09-08, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
  8. González-Val, Rafael & Marcén, Miriam, 2012. "Unilateral divorce versus child custody and child support in the U.S," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 613-643.
  9. Audrey Light & Yoshiaki Omori, 2012. "Can Long-Term Cohabiting and Marital Unions be Incentivized?," Working Papers 12-01, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
  10. Cáceres-Delpiano, Julio & Giolito, Eugenio P., 2008. "How Unilateral Divorce Affects Children," IZA Discussion Papers 3342, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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