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Explaining the Growth of Divorce in Great Britain


  • Smith, Ian


This paper tests whether the liberalization of divorce law or economic factors can explain the postwar growth of divorce rates in Great Britain. Timing differences regarding the dates of legal innovations in England and Wales relative to Scotland are exploited to test for divorce law effects. The results suggest that innovations in family law have had a powerful but only temporary impact on divorce rates. The rising incidence of divorce is explained chiefly by the growth in the real earnings of women, which have increased postdivorce welfare by providing a measure of financial independence. Copyright 1997 by Scottish Economic Society.

Suggested Citation

  • Smith, Ian, 1997. "Explaining the Growth of Divorce in Great Britain," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 44(5), pages 519-544, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:scotjp:v:44:y:1997:i:5:p:519-44

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Bruce Phillips & William Griffiths, 2004. "Female Earnings and Divorce Rates: Some Australian Evidence," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 37(2), pages 139-152, June.
    2. Marcén, Miriam, 2012. "Divorce and the birth control pill," MPRA Paper 35955, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Massimiliano Bratti, 2003. "Labour force participation and marital fertility of Italian women: The role of education," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 16(3), pages 525-554, August.
    4. Balestrino, Alessandro & Ciardi, Cinzia & Mammini, Claudio, 2013. "On the causes and consequences of divorce," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 1-9.
    5. Éric Langlais, 2010. "On unilateral divorce and the “selection of marriages” hypothesis," Recherches économiques de Louvain, De Boeck Université, vol. 76(3), pages 229-256.
    6. Wendy Sigle-Rushton, 2008. "England and Wales: Stable fertility and pronounced social status differences," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 19(15), pages 455-502, July.
    7. Almudena Sevilla-Sanz & Delia Furtado and Miriam Marcen, 2010. "Does Culture Affect Divorce Decisions? Evidence from European Immigrants in the US," Economics Series Working Papers 495, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    8. Balestrino, Alessandro & Ciardi, Cinzia, 2008. "Social norms, cognitive dissonance and the timing of marriage," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 2399-2410, December.
    9. Simon Clark, 1998. "Property Rights and the Economics of Divorce," ESE Discussion Papers 18, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
    10. Peter T. Leeson & Joshua Pierson, 2016. "Prenups," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 367-400.
    11. Bowles, Roger & Garoupa, Nuno, 2002. "Household dissolution, child care and divorce law," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 495-510, December.
    12. Clark, Simon, 1999. "Law, Property, and Marital Dissolution," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(454), pages 41-54, March.
    13. Sigle-Rushton, Wendy, 2008. "England and Wales: stable fertility and pronounced social status differences," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 31307, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    14. repec:aia:aiaswp:wp27 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Rebecca Kippen & Bruce Chapman & Peng Yu, 2010. "What's love got to do with it? Homogamy and dyadic approaches to understanding marital instability," CEPR Discussion Papers 631, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    16. 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.
    17. Alessandro Cigno, 2011. "The Economics of Marriage," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 12(s1), pages 28-41, May.
    18. Ian Smith, 1998. "The Economics of the Grounds for Divorce in Great Britain," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 6(1), pages 39-52, July.
    19. González-Val, Rafael & Marcén, Miriam, 2010. "Unilateral Divorce vs. Child Custody and Child Support in the U.S," MPRA Paper 24695, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. 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.
    21. Cameron, Samuel, 2003. "The economic model of divorce: the neglected role of search and specific capital formation," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 303-316, July.
    22. González-Val, Rafael & Marcén, Miriam, 2009. "Breaks in the Breaks: A Time-Series Analysis of Divorce Rates," MPRA Paper 14851, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    23. Nunley, John & Zietz, Joachim, 2008. "The U.S. Divorce Rate: The 1960s Surge Versus Its Long-Run Determinants," MPRA Paper 16317, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Dec 2008.
    24. Delia Furtado & Miriam Marcén & Almudena Sevilla, 2013. "Does Culture Affect Divorce? Evidence From European Immigrants in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(3), pages 1013-1038, June.

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