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Is there justification for alimony payments? A survey of the empirical literature

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  • Bruno Jeandidier

    () (BETA - Bureau d'Économie Théorique et Appliquée - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - UL - Université de Lorraine - UNISTRA - Université de Strasbourg)

  • Helen Lim

    () (BETA - Bureau d'Économie Théorique et Appliquée - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - UL - Université de Lorraine - UNISTRA - Université de Strasbourg)

Abstract

The French civil code relating to divorce makes reference to the economics of marriage in specifying that in fixing alimony payments, judges should take into account the professional choices made by each spouse during the marriage for the sake of the union or for the children. According to the theory, traditional gender role specialisation results in men accumulating market human capital whilst women accumulate family-oriented human capital. Wage data in many countries indeed indicates that men tend to enjoy a marriage wage premium whilst women suffer a wage penalty. A corollary of this is that in the event of divorce, men are not penalised financially whereas women are. This paper analyses the empirical justification for alimony payments. An extensive review of the literature suggests that part of the premium observed for men is explained by a selection effect, and possibly other factors such as the effect of responsibility, or employer bias. In the case of women, it is motherhood and not marriage per se that has a clearly negative impact on wages.
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Suggested Citation

  • Bruno Jeandidier & Helen Lim, 2015. "Is there justification for alimony payments? A survey of the empirical literature," Working Papers hal-02105214, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:hal-02105214
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02105214
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • K36 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Family and Personal Law

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