IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/hka/wpaper/2011-009.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Divorce Laws and Divorce Rate in the U.S

Author

Listed:
  • Stefania Marcassa

    () (Paris School of Economics)

Abstract

At the end of the 1960s, the U.S. divorce laws underwent major changes and the divorce rate more than doubled in all of the states. The new laws introduced unilateral divorce in most of the states and changes in divorce settlements in every state, such as property division, alimony transfers, and child custody assignments. The empirical literature so far has focused on the switch from consensual to unilateral divorce and found that this change cannot fully account for the increase in the divorce rate. Also, the divorce rate increased even in states where the decision remained consensual. In this paper, I consider the effects of other aspects of the legal change. I show that changes in divorce settlements provide economic incentives for both spouses to agree to divorce. Moreover, I describe a mechanism that can explain the different change in divorce rate by age of couples. I solve and calibrate a model where agents differ by gender, and make decisions on their marital status, investment and labor supply. Under the new financial settlements, divorced men gain from a favorable division of property, while women gain from an increase in alimony and child support transfers. Since both of them are better off in the new divorce setting, the existing requirement of consent for divorce (consensual or unilateral) is no longer relevant. Results show that changes in divorce settlements account for a substantial amount of the increase in the aggregate divorce rate. I also find that the increase in divorce rate of young couples with children contributes the most to the overall increase, which is consistent with the data.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefania Marcassa, 2011. "Divorce Laws and Divorce Rate in the U.S," Working Papers 2011-009, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2011-009
    Note: FI
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Marcassa_2011_divorce-law-rate.pdf
    File Function: First version, March 2, 2011
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. S. Rao Aiyagari & Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner, 2000. "On the State of the Union," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 213-244, April.
    2. Del Boca, D. & Ribero, R., 1999. "Visitations and Transfers in Non Intact Households," Papers 807, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
    3. Peters, H Elizabeth, 1986. "Marriage and Divorce: Informational Constraints and Private Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 437-454, June.
    4. Tauchen, George, 1986. "Finite state markov-chain approximations to univariate and vector autoregressions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 177-181.
    5. Richard Blundell & Pierre-Andre Chiappori & Thierry Magnac & Costas Meghir, 2007. "Collective Labour Supply: Heterogeneity and Non-Participation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(2), pages 417-445.
    6. Peters, H Elizabeth, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 687-693, June.
    7. 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.
    8. Éric Langlais, 2010. "On unilateral divorce and the “selection of marriages” hypothesis," Recherches économiques de Louvain, De Boeck Université, vol. 76(3), pages 229-256.
    9. Urvi Neelakantan, 2009. "The impact of changes in child support policy," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 22(3), pages 641-663, July.
    10. Imran Rasul, 2006. "Marriage Markets and Divorce Laws," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 30-69, April.
    11. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Anne Case & I-Fen Lin & Sara Mclanahan, 2003. "Explaining trends in child support: Economic, demographic, and policy effects," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 40(1), pages 171-189, February.
    13. González, Libertad & Viitanen, Tarja K., 2009. "The effect of divorce laws on divorce rates in Europe," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 127-138, February.
    14. Clark, Simon, 1999. "Law, Property, and Marital Dissolution," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(454), pages 41-54, March.
    15. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Age-specific divorce rate; unilateral and consensual divorce; divorce laws; property division; alimony and child support; child custody;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • K36 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Family and Personal Law

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2011-009. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jennifer Pachon). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/mfichus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.