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Public Goods, Transferable Utility and Divorce Laws

  • Chiappori, Pierre-André


    (Columbia University)

  • Iyigun, Murat


    (University of Colorado, Boulder)

  • Weiss, Yoram


    (Tel Aviv University)

We reconsider the well known Becker-Coase (BC) argument, according to which changes in divorce laws should not affect divorce rates, in the context of households which consume public goods in addition to private goods. For this result to hold, utility must be transferable both within marriage and upon divorce, and the marginal rate of substitution between public and private consumption needs to be invariant in marital status. We develop a model in which couples consume public goods and show that if divorce alters the way some goods are consumed (either because some goods that are public in marriage become private in divorce or because divorce affects the marginal rate of substitution between public and private goods), then the Becker-Coase theorem holds only under strict quasi-linearity. We conclude that, in general, divorce laws will influence the divorce rate, although the impact of a change in divorce laws can go in either direction.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2646.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published as "The Becker-Coase Theorem Reconsidered," in the Journal of Demographic Economics, 2015, 81(2), 157-77.
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2646
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  1. Giulio Fella & Paola Manzini & Marco Mariotti, 2004. "Does Divorce Law Matter?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(4), pages 607-633, 06.
  2. Bergstrom, Theodore C & Cornes, Richard C, 1983. "Independence of Allocative Efficiency from Distribution in the Theory of Public Goods," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(6), pages 1753-65, November.
  3. Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates? A Reconciliation and New Results," Research Papers 1819, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  4. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre, 1992. "Collective Labor Supply and Welfare," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 437-67, June.
  5. Imran Rasul, 2006. "Marriage Markets and Divorce Laws," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 30-69, April.
  6. T. Paul Schultz, 1990. "Testing the Neoclassical Model of Family Labor Supply and Fertility," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(4), pages 599-634.
  7. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(1), pages 267-288, 02.
  8. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre, 1988. "Rational Household Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 63-90, January.
  9. 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.
  10. Lundberg, S.J. & Pollak, R.A. & Wales, T.J., 1994. "Do Husbands and Wives Pool Their Resources? Evidence from U.K. Child Benefit," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 94-6, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  11. M. Browning & P. A. Chiappori, 1998. "Efficient Intra-Household Allocations: A General Characterization and Empirical Tests," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(6), pages 1241-1278, November.
  12. Simon Clark, 1999. "Law, Property, and Marital Dissolution," ESE Discussion Papers 32, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  13. Duncan Thomas, 1990. "Intra-Household Resource Allocation: An Inferential Approach," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(4), pages 635-664.
  14. Gary S. Becker, . "Fertility and the Economy," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 92-3, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  15. Pierre-André Chiappori & Yoram Weiss, 2007. "Divorce, Remarriage, and Child Support," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 37-74.
  16. Chiappori, P.A. & Ekeland, I., 2006. "The micro economics of group behavior: General characterization," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 130(1), pages 1-26, September.
  17. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. 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.
  19. Bergstrom, Theodore C, 1999. " Systems of Benevolent Utility Functions," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 1(1), pages 71-100.
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