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

  • Elizabeth O. Ananat
  • Guy Michaels

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 breakup 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 breakup 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 labor supply, divorce significantly increases the odds that a woman with children is poor.

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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 51601.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:51601
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  1. 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.
  2. David Neumark & Mark E. Schweitzer & William L. Wascher, 2004. "The effects of minimum wages on the distribution of family incomes: a nonparametric analysis," Working Paper 0412, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  3. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Nidardo, J. & Fortin, N. & Lemieux, T., 1994. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Papers 93-94-15, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  8. Abadie, Alberto, 2003. "Semiparametric instrumental variable estimation of treatment response models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 113(2), pages 231-263, April.
  9. M. Robin Dion, 2005. "Healthy Marriage Programs: Learning What Works," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 700e2d88f10b4f079d504806a, Mathematica Policy Research.
  10. Hilary W. Hoynes & Marianne P Bitler & Jonah Gelbach, 2005. "What Mean Impacts Miss:Distributional Effects of Welfare Reform Experiments," Working Papers 531, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  11. Shelly Lundberg & Elaina Rose, 2003. "Child gender and the transition to marriage," Demography, Springer, vol. 40(2), pages 333-349, May.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-75, March.
  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. 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.
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