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Female earnings and the divorce rate: a simultaneous equations model


  • Rand Ressler
  • Melissa Waters


Economists have contributed a great deal of research, both theoretical and empirical, to the study of marital formation and dissolution. Many empirical examinations of marriage and divorce rates exist based on Becker's seminal contributions to the literature. All of these divorce studies are single equation models, with female earnings assumed exogenous. As discussed by Becker (1981), however, causality may run in the opposite direction as well: the divorce rate may influence female earnings. This paper estimates a simultaneous equations model in which divorce rates and female earnings are the jointly endogenous variables. Data are by state, for 1960, 1970, 1980 and 1990. The state-wide divorce rate equation is an extension of Waters and Ressler (1999), and the specification of a state-wide earnings equation follows standard human capital theory. The specification of joint endogeneity between female earnings and the divorce rate allows valid inferences to be made regarding the effect of female earnings on divorce for the first time. Most previous single equation studies of divorce have found that increases in female earnings significantly increase divorce rates. A simultaneous equations model will allow inferences to be made regarding the possibility of joint determination, which may cause a reevaluation of previous results.

Suggested Citation

  • Rand Ressler & Melissa Waters, 2000. "Female earnings and the divorce rate: a simultaneous equations model," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(14), pages 1889-1898.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:v:32:y:2000:i:14:p:1889-1898
    DOI: 10.1080/000368400425107

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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. John M. Nunley & Alan Seals, 2010. "The Effects of Household Income Volatility on Divorce," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(3), pages 983-1010, July.
    3. Marianne Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes & Madeline Zavodny, 2004. "The impact of welfare reform on marriage and divorce," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(2), pages 213-236, May.
    4. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes & Madeline Zavodny, 2004. "The Impact of Welfare Reform on Marriage and Divorce," Working Papers WR-110-NICHD/NIA, RAND Corporation.
    5. Sonya Britt & Sandra Huston, 2012. "The Role of Money Arguments in Marriage," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 464-476, December.
    6. Signe Hald Andersen & Lars GÅrn Hansen, 2010. "The Rise and Fall of Divorce - A Sociological Adjustment of Becker’s Model of the Marriage Market," IFRO Working Paper 2010/4, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics.
    7. Marianne Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes & Madeline Zavodny, 2004. "The impact of welfare reform on marriage and divorce," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(2), pages 213-236, May.
    8. 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.
    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. Chris Herbst, 2011. "The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Marriage and Divorce: Evidence from Flow Data," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 30(1), pages 101-128, February.
    11. David Johnson & Guyonne Kalb, 2002. "Economic Analyses of Families: Existing Research Findings," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2002n27, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    12. Stefan Sperlich & Juan M. Rodríguez-Póo & Ana I. Fernández, 2005. "Semiparametric three-step estimation methods for simultaneous equation systems," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(6), pages 699-721.

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