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The Effect of Divorce Laws on Divorce Rates in Europe

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  • Libertad González
  • Tarja K. Viitanen

    ()
    (Department of Economics, The University of Sheffield)

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 The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2006003.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2006
Date of revision: Mar 2006
Handle: RePEc:shf:wpaper:2006003

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Keywords: divorce rates; legislation.;

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References

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  1. Allen, Douglas W, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 679-85, June.
  2. 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.
  3. Helmut Rainer, 2003. "Should We Write Prenuptial Contracts?," Economics Discussion Papers 572, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  4. Fella, Giulio & Manzini, Paola & Mariotti, Marco, 2002. "Does Divorce Law Matter?," IZA Discussion Papers 439, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. 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.
  6. Rainer, Helmut, 2007. "Should we write prenuptial contracts?," Munich Reprints in Economics 19819, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  7. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 27-52, Spring.
  8. Jonathan Gardner & Andrew J. Oswald, 2006. "Do divorcing couples become happier by breaking up?," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 169(2), pages 319-336.
  9. 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.
  10. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," Research Papers 1828, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  11. Simon Clark, 2004. "Law, Property, and Marital Dissolution," ESE Discussion Papers 32, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  12. 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.
  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. 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.
  15. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, May.
  16. 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.
  17. Peters, H Elizabeth, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 687-93, June.
  18. 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.
  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. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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