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The Effect of Marital Breakup on the Income Distribution of Women with Children

  • Ananat, Elizabeth O.
  • Michaels, Guy

Having a female firstborn child significantly increases the probability that a woman’s first marriage breaks up. Recent work has exploited this exogenous variation to measure the effect of marital break-up on economic outcomes, and has concluded that divorce has little effect on women’s average household income. Employing an Abadie (2003) technique that allows us to look at the impact of marital break-up throughout the income distribution, however, we find that divorce greatly increases the probability that a woman lives in a household with income in the bottom quartile. While women partially offset the loss of spousal earnings with child support, welfare, combining households, and substantially increasing their labour supply, divorce significantly increases the odds that a woman with children is poor.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 6228.

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Date of creation: Mar 2007
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6228
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  1. Gordon B. Dahl & Enrico Moretti, 2004. "The Demand for Sons: Evidence from Divorce, Fertility, and Shotgun Marriage," NBER Working Papers 10281, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Abadie, Alberto, 2003. "Semiparametric instrumental variable estimation of treatment response models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 113(2), pages 231-263, April.
  3. David Neumark & Mark Schweitzer & William Wascher, 1998. "The Effects of Minimum Wages on the Distribution of Family Incomes: A Non-Parametric Analysis," NBER Working Papers 6536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Becker, Gary S, 1985. "Human Capital, Effort, and the Sexual Division of Labor," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages S33-58, January.
  5. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," NBER Working Papers 7968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Marianne Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes, 2003. "What Mean Impacts Miss: Distributional Effects of Welfare Reform Experiments," NBER Working Papers 10121, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Dinardo, J. & Fortin, N.M. & Lemieux, T., 1994. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: a Semiparametric Approach," Cahiers de recherche 9406, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  8. Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 7800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Rebecca M. Blank & Robert F. Schoeni, 2003. "Changes in the Distribution of Children's Family Income over the 1990's," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 304-308, May.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Angrist, Joshua D & Evans, William N, 1998. "Children and Their Parents' Labor Supply: Evidence from Exogenous Variation in Family Size," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 450-77, June.
  13. Jonathan Gruber, 2004. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long-Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 799-834, October.
  14. M. Robin Dion, 2005. "Healthy Marriage Programs: Learning What Works," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 700e2d88f10b4f079d504806a, Mathematica Policy Research.
  15. Shelly Lundberg & Elaina Rose, 2003. "Child gender and the transition to marriage," Demography, Springer, vol. 40(2), pages 333-349, May.
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