IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Sex Preferences, Marital Dissolution, and the Economic Status of Women

  • Kelly Bedard
  • Olivier DeschĂȘnes

The rise in the divorce rate over the past 40 years is one of the fundamental changes in American society. A substantial number of women and children now spend some fraction of their life in single female-headed households, leading many to be concerned about their economic circumstances. Estimating the cause-to-effect relationship between marital dissolution and female economic status is complicated because the same factors that increase marital instability also may affect the economic status and labor market outcomes of women. We propose an instrumental variables solution to this problem based on the sex of the firstborn child. This strategy exploits the fact that the sex of the firstborn child is random and the fact that marriages are less likely to continue following the birth of girls as opposed to boys. Our IV results cast doubt on the widely held view that divorce causes large declines in economic status for women. Once the negative selection into divorce is accounted for, our results show that, on average, everdivorced women live in households with more income per person than neverdivorced women.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: A subscription is required to access pdf files. Pay per article is available.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by University of Wisconsin Press in its journal Journal of Human Resources.

Volume (Year): 40 (2005)
Issue (Month): 2 ()

in new window

Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:40:y:2005:i:2:p411-434
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-46, July-Aug..
  2. Elizabeth O. Ananat & Guy Michaels, 2008. "The Effect of Marital Breakup on the Income Distribution of Women with Children," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(3), pages 611-629.
  3. Rose, Elaina, 2000. "Gender Bias, Credit Constraints and Time Allocation in Rural India," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(465), pages 738-58, July.
  4. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:112:y:1997:i:1:p:141-68 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2000. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," NBER Working Papers 7831, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Joshua D. Angrist & Guido W. Imbens, 1995. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," NBER Technical Working Papers 0118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 1997. "Adapting to Circumstances: The Evolution of Work, School, and Living Arrangements Among North American Youth," Working Papers 765, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  8. Joshua D. Angrist, 2004. "Treatment effect heterogeneity in theory and practice," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(494), pages C52-C83, 03.
  9. 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.
  10. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:106:y:1991:i:4:p:1063-88 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:90:y:1976:i:2:p:285-307 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Pamela Smock, 1993. "The economic costs of marital disruption for Young Women over the past two decades," Demography, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 353-371, August.
  13. Lundberg, S. & Pollak, R.A., 1991. "Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market," Working Papers 91-08, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
  14. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Marriage: Part II," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 11-26 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Harry A. Krashinsky, 2004. "Do Marital Status and Computer Usage Really Change the Wage Structure?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(3).
  16. Richard Burkhauser & Greg Duncan & Richard Hauser & Roland Berntsen, 1991. "Wife or frau, women do worse: A comparison of men and women in the United States and Germany after marital dissolution," Demography, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 353-360, August.
  17. Joshua D. Angrist & William N. Evans, 1996. "Children and Their Parents' Labor Supply: Evidence from Exogenous Variation in Family Size," NBER Working Papers 5778, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Bronars, Stephen G & Grogger, Jeff, 1994. "The Economic Consequences of Unwed Motherhood: Using Twin Births as a Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1141-56, December.
  19. Jay Teachman & Paul Schollaert, 1989. "Gender of children and birth timing," Demography, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 411-423, August.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:40:y:2005:i:2:p411-434. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.