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Divorce Laws and the Structure of the American Family

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  • Stéphane Mechoulan

Abstract

This paper investigates the impact of no-fault divorce laws on marriage and divorce in the United States. I propose a theory that captures the key stylized facts of the rising then declining divorce rates and the apparent convergence of divorce rates across the different divorce regimes. The empirical results suggest that a shift from fault to no-fault divorce increased the odds of divorcing for those couples who married before the shift. The analysis further suggests that those couples who marry after the shift to a no-fault regime, in turn, sort themselves better upon marriage, which offsets the direct effect of the law on divorce rates. Consistent with that selectivity argument, after a switch to a no-fault divorce regime, women get married later in life. These results hold for the law that governs property division and spousal support. The law that governs divorce grounds does not seem to matter significantly.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Toronto, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number tecipa-245.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: 10 Jul 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-245

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Related research

Keywords: divorce; marriage; law; no-fault; fault; property; grounds; surprise;

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Cited by:
  1. Cáceres-Delpiano, Julio & Giolito, Eugenio P., 2008. "How Unilateral Divorce Affects Children," IZA Discussion Papers 3342, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Martin Halla & Johann Scharler, 2012. "Marriage, Divorce, and Interstate Risk Sharing," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(1), pages 55-78, 03.
  3. Julio Cáceres-Delpiano & Eugenio Giolito, 2011. "The Impact of Unilateral Divorce on Crime," ILADES-Georgetown University Working Papers inv269, Ilades-Georgetown University, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Bussines.
  4. Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates? A Reconciliation and New Results," Research Papers 1819, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  5. Alessandra Voena, 2011. "Yours, Mine and Ours: Do Divorce Laws Affect the Intertemporal Behavior of Married Couples?," Discussion Papers 10-022, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  6. Audrey Light & Yoshiaki Omori, 2012. "Can Long-Term Cohabiting and Marital Unions be Incentivized?," Working Papers 12-01, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
  7. Langlais, Eric, 2009. "On unilateral divorce and the "selection of marriages" hypothesis," MPRA Paper 14368, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Audrey Light & Yoshiaki Omori, 2009. "Economic Incentives and Family Formation," Working Papers 09-08, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
  9. González-Val, Rafael & Marcén, Miriam, 2012. "Unilateral divorce versus child custody and child support in the U.S," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 613-643.
  10. 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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