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The Long-Term Effects of the Divorce Revolution: Health, Wealth, and Labor Supply

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  • Kristin Mammen
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    Abstract

    The effects of divorce on individuals and on society as a whole has been widely debated in public discussion of American life. The dialogue was sparked by the dramatic rise in the number of U.S. divorces which began in the 1960s: Figure 1 illustrates that the divorce rate doubled from 10.6 to 20.3 divorces per 1,000 married women between 1965 and 1975, and continued to rise until 1981. Scholars have also debated the implications of the 'Divorce Revolution' of this time period: the liberalization of divorce laws in a large number of states to a unilateral regime, which made divorce easier by requiring the consent of only one spouse to dissolve a marriage (e.g., Friedberg 1998, Weitzman 1995). Some policymakers, 14 social scientists, and advocacy groups have argued that this sweeping policy change was an important factor in a general decline of the American family (e.g., Kirkwood 1996, Parkman 1993). Gruber (2004) found that children exposed to the unilateral divorce laws have poorer outcomes in young adulthood. On the other hand, the easing of divorce laws made it easier for people to leave toxic marriages, and arguably increased the bargaining power of abused partners within marriages; Stevenson and Wolfers (2006) find large declines in domestic violence in states that adopted unilateral divorce. This paper contributes to the evaluation of the change in divorce laws by examining a less studied area: the long-term effects of this policy change on the well-being of men and women who were young adults when the laws were changing...

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    File URL: http://crr.bc.edu/working-papers/the-long-term-effects-of-the-divorce-revolution-health-wealth-and-labor-supply/
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Center for Retirement Research in its series Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College with number wp2008-22.

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    Length: 28 pages
    Date of creation: Oct 2008
    Date of revision: Nov 2008
    Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2008-22

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    1. Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates? A Reconciliation and New Results," Research Papers 1819, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    2. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(1), pages 267-288, 02.
    3. Steven J. Haider & Alison Jacknowitz & Robert F. Schoeni, 2003. "The Economic Status of Elderly Divorced Women," Working Papers wp046, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    4. Chiappori, Pierre-André & Iyigun, Murat & Weiss, Yoram, 2007. "Public Goods, Transferable Utility and Divorce Laws," IZA Discussion Papers 2646, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Papps, Kerry L., 2006. "The Effects of Divorce Risk on the Labour Supply of Married Couples," IZA Discussion Papers 2395, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Betsey Stevenson, 2006. "The impact of divorce laws on marriage-specific capital," Working Paper Series 2006-43, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    7. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Allen, Douglas W, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 679-85, June.
    9. Gary Burtless & Joseph F. Quinn, 2002. "Is Working Longer the Answer for an Aging Workforce?," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 550, Boston College Department of Economics.
    10. Pierre-Andre Chiappori & Bernard Fortin & Guy Lacroix, 2002. "Marriage Market, Divorce Legislation, and Household Labor Supply," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 37-72, February.
    11. Johnson, William R & Skinner, Jonathan, 1986. "Labor Supply and Marital Separation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 455-69, June.
    12. Marianne E. Page & Ann Huff Stevens, 2004. "The Economic Consequences of Absent Parents," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    13. Imran Rasul, 2006. "Marriage Markets and Divorce Laws," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 30-69, April.
    14. Niko Matouschek & Imran Rasul, 2008. "The Economics of the Marriage Contract: Theories and Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 59-110, 02.
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