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Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates? A Reconciliation and New Results

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  • Justin Wolfers

Abstract

Applying the Coase Theorem to marital bargaining suggests that shifting from consent to unilateral divorce laws will not affect divorce rates. I show that existing evidence suggesting large effects of divorce laws on divorce rates reflect a failure to explicitly model the dynamic response of divorce rates to a shock to the legal regime. When accounting for these dynamics, I find that unilateral divorce spiked following the adoption of unilateral divorce laws, but that this rise largely reversed itself within a decade. Overall, these changes in family law explain very little of the rise in divorce over the past half-century. (JEL C78, J12)

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:96:y:2006:i:5:p:1802-1820
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.96.5.1802
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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