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The Effect of Divorce Laws on Divorce Rates in Europe

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Author Info

  • Gonzalez, Libertad

    ()
    (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

  • Viitanen, Tarja

    ()
    (University of Otago)

Abstract

This paper analyzes a panel of 18 European countries spanning from 1950 to 2003 to examine the extent to which the legal reforms leading to "easier divorce" that took place during the second half of the 20th century have contributed to the increase in divorce rates across Europe. We use a quasi-experimental set-up and exploit the different timing of the reforms in divorce laws across countries. We account for unobserved country-specific factors by introducing country fixed effects, and we include country-specific trends to control for time-varying factors at the country level that may be correlated with divorce rates and divorce laws, such as changing social norms or slow moving demographic trends. We find that the different reforms that "made divorce easier" were followed by significant increases in divorce rates. The effect of no-fault legislation was strong and permanent, while unilateral reforms only had a temporary effect on divorce rates. Overall, we estimate that the legal reforms account for about 20 percent of the increase in divorce rates in Europe between 1960 and 2002.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2023.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: European Economic Review, 2009, 53 (2), 127-138
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2023

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Keywords: legislation; divorce rates;

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References

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  1. Fella, Giulio & Manzini, Paola & Mariotti, Marco, 2002. "Does Divorce Law Matter?," IZA Discussion Papers 439, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," IZA Discussion Papers 2602, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. 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.
  4. Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J., 2005. "Do Divorcing Couples Become Happier By Breaking Up?," IZA Discussion Papers 1788, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Helmut Rainer, 2005. "Should We Write Prenuptial Contracts?," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 200514, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
  6. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Betsey Stevenson, 2007. "The Impact of Divorce Laws on Marriage-Specific Capital," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 75-94.
  8. Peters, H Elizabeth, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 687-93, June.
  9. Jonathan Gruber, 2004. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long-Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 799-834, October.
  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. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," NBER Working Papers 7968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates? A Reconciliation and New Results," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1802-1820, December.
  14. Allen, Douglas W, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 679-85, June.
  15. Rainer, Helmut, 2007. "Should we write prenuptial contracts?," Munich Reprints in Economics 19819, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  16. Simon Clark, 2004. "Law, Property, and Marital Dissolution," ESE Discussion Papers 32, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  17. Parkman, Allen M, 1992. "Unilateral Divorce and the Labor-Force Participation Rate of Married Women, Revisited," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 671-78, June.
  18. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2003. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," NBER Working Papers 10175, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Stéphane Mechoulan, 2005. "“Economic Theory’s Stance On No-Fault Divorce”," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 337-359, 09.
  20. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, May.
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