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Sex Preferences, Marital Dissolution and the Economic Status of Women

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  • Bedard, Kelly
  • Deschenes, Olivier

Abstract

The rise in the divorce rate over the past 40 years is one of the fundamental changes in American society. A seemingly ever-increasing number of women and children spend some fraction of their life in single female-headed households, leading many to be concerned about the economic circumstances of these women their and children. Estimating the cause-to-effect relationship between marital dissolution and female economic status is complicated because the same factors that increase marital instability may also affect the economic status and labor market behavior of women. We propose an instrumental variables solution to this problem based on the sex of the firstborn child. This strategy exploits the fact that the sex of the firstborn child is random and the fact that marriages are less likely to survive following the birth of girls as opposed to boys. Our IV estimates cast doubt on the contention that marital instability causes large declines in woman’s economic status. Once the negative selection into divorce is accounted for, we find that women who have experienced marital dissolution have considerably higher levels of personal income and annual wages than women who remain married. At the same time we find little evidence of differential poverty rates and equivalized household incomes among ever-divorced women and never-divorced women. We further show that the higher wages of ever-divorced women mostly reflect increased labor supply intensity (hours and weeks of work) of woman who experienced marital dissolution.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt07g2372x.

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Date of creation: 15 Jun 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt07g2372x

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Keywords: Sex Preferences; Marital Dissolution; Economic Status;

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  1. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-75, March.
  2. Leung, Siu Fai, 1991. "A Stochastic Dynamic Analysis of Parental Sex Preferences and Fertility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1063-88, November.
  3. Jay Teachman & Paul Schollaert, 1989. "Gender of children and birth timing," Demography, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 411-423, August.
  4. Bronars, Stephen G & Grogger, Jeff, 1994. "The Economic Consequences of Unwed Motherhood: Using Twin Births as a Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1141-56, December.
  5. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 151-184, February.
  6. 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.
  7. Becker, Gary S & Landes, Elisabeth M & Michael, Robert T, 1977. "An Economic Analysis of Marital Instability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(6), pages 1141-87, December.
  8. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Marriage: Part II," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(2), pages S11-S26, Part II, .
  9. Burdett, Ken & Coles, Melvyn G, 1997. "Marriage and Class," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 141-68, February.
  10. Richard Burkhauser & Greg Duncan & Richard Hauser & Roland Berntsen, 1991. "Wife or frau, women do worse: A comparison of men and women in the United States and Germany after marital dissolution," Demography, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 353-360, August.
  11. Harry A. Krashinsky, 2004. "Do Marital Status and Computer Usage Really Change the Wage Structure?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(3).
  12. Pamela Smock, 1993. "The economic costs of marital disruption for Young Women over the past two decades," Demography, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 353-371, August.
  13. Ben-Porath, Yoram & Welch, Finis, 1976. "Do Sex Preferences Really Matter?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 285-307, May.
  14. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-46, July-Aug..
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