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The Impact of Unilateral Divorce on Crime

Using data from the FBI´s Uniform Crime Report program and differences in the timing of the reform’s introduction, we find that unilateral divorce caused an increase in violent crime rates of approximately 9 percent during the period 1965-1996. When we use age at the time of the reform as an additional source of variation, our findings suggest that young adult cohorts, who were children at the time of the reform, were particularly affected. Finally, we show evidence that a potential channel behind our findings is an increase in poverty and inequality among mothers who were “surprised” by the reform.

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Paper provided by Ilades-Georgetown University, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Bussines in its series ILADES-Georgetown University Working Papers with number inv269.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ila:ilades:inv269
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Elizabeth O. Ananat & Guy Michaels, 2007. "The Effect of Marital Breakup on the Income Distribution of Women with Children," CEP Discussion Papers dp0787, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  4. John J. Donohue, III & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Further Evidence that Legalized Abortion Lowered Crime: A Reply to Joyce," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  5. Stéphane Mechoulan, 2006. "Divorce Laws and the Structure of the American Family," Working Papers tecipa-245, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  6. Christina Paxson & Jane Waldfogel, 1999. "Work, Welfare, and Child Maltreatment," NBER Working Papers 7343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Donohue III, John J. & Wolfers, Justin, 2006. "Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate," IZA Discussion Papers 1949, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. 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.
  9. Kelly Bedard & Olivier Deschênes, 2005. "Sex Preferences, Marital Dissolution, and the Economic Status of Women," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(2).
  10. John Donohue & Steven Levitt, 2000. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," NBER Working Papers 8004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Peters, H Elizabeth, 1986. "Marriage and Divorce: Informational Constraints and Private Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 437-54, June.
  12. Alesina, Alberto F & Giuliano, Paola & Nunn, Nathan, 2011. "Fertility and the Plough," CEPR Discussion Papers 8261, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Gray, Jeffrey S, 1998. "Divorce-Law Changes, Household Bargaining, and Married Women's Labor Supply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 628-42, June.
  14. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Ted Joyce, 2001. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," NBER Working Papers 8319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano, 2006. "Divorce, fertility and the shot gun marriage," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2117, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  17. 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.
  18. Marianne E. Page & Ann Huff Stevens, 2004. "The Economic Consequences of Absent Parents," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  19. Roland G. Fryer & Paul S. Heaton & Steven D. Levitt & Kevin M. Murphy, 2005. "Measuring the Impact of Crack Cocaine," NBER Working Papers 11318, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. 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, 02.
  21. Christopher L. Foote & Christopher F. Goetz, 2008. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime: Comment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(1), pages 407-423, 02.
  22. Ted Joyce, 2009. "A Simple Test of Abortion and Crime," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 112-123, February.
  23. Morgan Kelly, 2000. "Inequality and crime," Open Access publications 10197/523, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  24. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275, February.
  25. John J. Donohue & Steven D. Levitt, 2006. "Measurement Error, Legalized Abortion, and the Decline in Crime: A Response to Foote and Goetz (2005)," NBER Working Papers 11987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Morgan Kelly, 2000. "Inequality And Crime," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 530-539, November.
  27. Cáceres-Delpiano, Julio & Giolito, Eugenio P., 2008. "How Unilateral Divorce Affects Children," IZA Discussion Papers 3342, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  28. Thomas S. Dee, 2003. "Until Death Do You Part: The Effects of Unilateral Divorce on Spousal Homicides," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(1), pages 163-182, January.
  29. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," Research Papers 1828, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  30. Ellman, Ira Mark & Lohr, Sharon L., 1998. "Dissolving the relationship between divorce laws and divorce rates," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 341-359, September.
  31. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
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