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The effect of marital breakup on the income distribution of women with children

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  • Ananat, Elizabeth
  • Michaels, Guy

Abstract

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 divorce on economic outcomes, and has concluded that divorce has little effect on women’s mean household income. However, using a Quantile Treatment Effect methodology (Abadie et al. 2002) we find that divorce widens the income distribution: it increases the probability that a woman has very low or very high household income. It appears that some women successfully generate income through child support, welfare, combining households, and increased labor supply after divorce, while others are markedly unsuccessful. Thus, although divorce has little effect on mean income, it nonetheless increases poverty and inequality. These findings imply that divorce has important welfare consequences.

Suggested Citation

  • Ananat, Elizabeth & Michaels, Guy, 2007. "The effect of marital breakup on the income distribution of women with children," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3273, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:3273
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/3273/
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah B. Gelbach & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2006. "What Mean Impacts Miss: Distributional Effects of Welfare Reform Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 988-1012, September.
    3. DiNardo, John & Fortin, Nicole M & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(5), pages 1001-1044, September.
    4. David Neumark & Mark Schweitzer & William Wascher, 2005. "The Effects of Minimum Wages on the Distribution of Family Incomes: A Nonparametric Analysis," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(4), pages 867-894.
    5. 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 450-477, June.
    6. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
    7. M. Robin Dion, "undated". "Healthy Marriage Programs: Learning What Works," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 700e2d88f10b4f079d504806a, Mathematica Policy Research.
    8. 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.
    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 1141-1187, December.
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    11. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-475, March.
    12. Abadie, Alberto, 2003. "Semiparametric instrumental variable estimation of treatment response models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 113(2), pages 231-263, April.
    13. Shelly Lundberg & Elaina Rose, 2003. "Child gender and the transition to marriage," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 40(2), pages 333-349, May.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    divorce and poverty;

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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