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Divorce, Fertility and the Shot Gun Marriage

  • Alesina, Alberto

    ()

    (Harvard University)

  • Giuliano, Paola

    ()

    (University of California, Los Angeles)

Using the birth certificates data from the Vital Statistics of the USA between 1968 and 1999, we construct state level panel data of different measures of fertility and examine the change in divorce laws. Total fertility declined in states that introduced unilateral divorce, which makes dissolution of marriage easier. Most of this effect is due to a decline of out-of-wedlock fertility. We suggest an explanation (and provide supportive evidence for it) based upon the effect of divorce laws on the probability of entering and exiting marriage. Women planning to have children marry more easily with an easier “exit option” from marriage. Thus, more children are born in the first years of marriage, while the total marital fertility does not change, probably as a result of an increase in divorces and marital instability. The effect of changes in divorce laws is greater among whites than African Americans.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2157.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2157
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  1. Levine, P-B & Staiger, D & Kane, T-J & Zimmerman, D-J, 1996. "Roe V.Wade and American Fertility," Papers 96-03, Wellesley College - Department of Economics.
  2. Allen, Douglas W, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 679-85, June.
  3. Rajeev Dehejia & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2004. "Booms, Busts, and Babies’ Health," Working Papers 250, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  4. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
  6. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L & Katz, Michael L, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317, May.
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