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The Long-Term Effects of the Divorce Revolution: Health, Wealth, and Labor Supply


  • Kristin Mammen


The effects of divorce on individuals and on society as a whole has been widely debated in public discussion of American life. The dialogue was sparked by the dramatic rise in the number of U.S. divorces which began in the 1960s: Figure 1 illustrates that the divorce rate doubled from 10.6 to 20.3 divorces per 1,000 married women between 1965 and 1975, and continued to rise until 1981. Scholars have also debated the implications of the 'Divorce Revolution' of this time period: the liberalization of divorce laws in a large number of states to a unilateral regime, which made divorce easier by requiring the consent of only one spouse to dissolve a marriage (e.g., Friedberg 1998, Weitzman 1995). Some policymakers, 14 social scientists, and advocacy groups have argued that this sweeping policy change was an important factor in a general decline of the American family (e.g., Kirkwood 1996, Parkman 1993). Gruber (2004) found that children exposed to the unilateral divorce laws have poorer outcomes in young adulthood. On the other hand, the easing of divorce laws made it easier for people to leave toxic marriages, and arguably increased the bargaining power of abused partners within marriages; Stevenson and Wolfers (2006) find large declines in domestic violence in states that adopted unilateral divorce. This paper contributes to the evaluation of the change in divorce laws by examining a less studied area: the long-term effects of this policy change on the well-being of men and women who were young adults when the laws were changing...

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  • Kristin Mammen, 2008. "The Long-Term Effects of the Divorce Revolution: Health, Wealth, and Labor Supply," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2008-22, Center for Retirement Research, revised Nov 2008.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2008-22

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Betsey Stevenson, 2007. "The Impact of Divorce Laws on Marriage-Specific Capital," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 75-94.
    2. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Niko Matouschek & Imran Rasul, 2008. "The Economics of the Marriage Contract: Theories and Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 59-110, February.
    4. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(1), pages 267-288.
    5. Pierre-Andre Chiappori & Bernard Fortin & Guy Lacroix, 2002. "Marriage Market, Divorce Legislation, and Household Labor Supply," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 37-72, February.
    6. Chiappori, Pierre-André & Iyigun, Murat & Weiss, Yoram, 2007. "Public Goods, Transferable Utility and Divorce Laws," IZA Discussion Papers 2646, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Papps, Kerry L., 2006. "The Effects of Divorce Risk on the Labour Supply of Married Couples," IZA Discussion Papers 2395, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Steven J. Haider & Alison Jacknowitz & Robert F. Schoeni, 2003. "The Economic Status of Elderly Divorced Women," Working Papers wp046, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    9. 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.
    10. Marianne E. Page & Ann Huff Stevens, 2004. "The Economic Consequences of Absent Parents," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    11. Gary Burtless & Joseph F. Quinn, 2002. "Is Working Longer the Answer for an Aging Workforce?," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 550, Boston College Department of Economics.
    12. Johnson, William R & Skinner, Jonathan, 1986. "Labor Supply and Marital Separation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 455-469, June.
    13. Allen, Douglas W, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 679-685, June.
    14. Imran Rasul, 2006. "Marriage Markets and Divorce Laws," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 30-69, April.
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