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Divorce, fertility and the shot gun marriage

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  • Alberto Alesina
  • Paola Giuliano

Abstract

Using the birth certificates data from the Vital Statistics of the USA between 1968 and 1999, we construct state level panel data of different measures of fertility and examine the change in divorce laws. Total fertility declined in states that introduced unilateral divorce, which makes dissolution of marriage easier. Most of this effect is due to a decline of out-of-wedlock fertility. We suggest an explanation (and provide supportive evidence for it) based upon the effect of divorce laws on the probability of entering and exiting marriage. Women planning to have children marry more easily with an easier “exit option” from marriage. Thus, more children are born in the first years of marriage, while the total marital fertility does not change, probably as a result of an increase in divorces and marital instability. The effect of changes in divorce laws is greater among whites than African Americans.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 2117.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:2117

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  1. Phillip B. Levine & Douglas Staiger & Thomas J. Kane & David J. Zimmerman, 1996. "Roe v. Wade and American Fertility," NBER Working Papers 5615, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L & Katz, Michael L, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317, May.
  4. Allen, Douglas W, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 679-85, June.
  5. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. Bellido, Héctor & Marcén, Miriam, 2011. "Divorce laws and fertility decisions," MPRA Paper 30243, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  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. Cáceres-Delpiano, Julio & Giolito, Eugenio P., 2008. "How Unilateral Divorce Affects Children," IZA Discussion Papers 3342, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Blau, David M. & van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2010. "What Determines Family Structure?," IZA Discussion Papers 4912, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. 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.

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