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How Unilateral Divorce Affects Children


  • Cáceres-Delpiano, Julio

    () (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

  • Giolito, Eugenio P.

    () (Universidad Alberto Hurtado)


Using U.S. Census data for the years 1960-1980, we study the impact of unilateral divorce on outcomes of children (age 6-15) and their mothers. We find that the reform increased mothers’ divorce, decreased family income and increased the fraction of mothers below the poverty line. For children, we find not only negative results on investment, measured as the probability that a child goes to a private school, but also on child outcomes, measured by the likelihood of children aged 0-4 being held back in school at the time of the reform. We then analyze outcomes of the same cohorts of children 10 years later, by studying young men and women aged 16-25 using the 1970-1990 U.S. Census. We find an increase in marginality for these cohorts, measured as the probability of living in an institution (men) or the probability of being below the poverty line (women). We find that the impact in outcomes is particularly important for black children and young adults.

Suggested Citation

  • Cáceres-Delpiano, Julio & Giolito, Eugenio P., 2008. "How Unilateral Divorce Affects Children," IZA Discussion Papers 3342, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3342

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    1. Julio Cáceres-Delpiano & Eugenio Giolito, 2012. "The Impact of Unilateral Divorce on Crime," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 215-248.
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    10. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    12. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wolfgang Frimmel & Martin Halla & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2016. "How Does Parental Divorce Affect Children's Long-term Outcomes?," Working Papers 2016-13, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    2. repec:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/692806 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Martin Halla, 2009. "The Effect of Joint Custody on Marriage and Divorce," Economics working papers 2009-09, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    4. Julio Cáceres-Delpiano & Eugenio Giolito, 2012. "The Impact of Unilateral Divorce on Crime," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 215-248.
    5. Libertad González Luna & Tarja Viitanen, 2008. "The long term effects of legalizing divorce on children," Economics Working Papers 1122, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    6. Lafortune, Jeanne & Low, Corinne, 2017. "Betting the House: How Assets Influence Marriage Selection, Marital Stability, and Child Investments," IZA Discussion Papers 11176, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Jennifer Roff, 2017. "Cleaning in the Shadow of the Law? Bargaining, Marital Investment, and the Impact of Divorce Law on Husbands' Intrahousehold Work," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(1), pages 115-134.
    8. Steffen Reinhold & Thorsten Kneip & Gerrit Bauer, 2013. "The long run consequences of unilateral divorce laws on children—evidence from SHARELIFE," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(3), pages 1035-1056, July.
    9. Bellido, Héctor & Molina, José Alberto & Solaz, Anne & Stancanelli, Elena, 2016. "Do children of the first marriage deter divorce?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 15-31.
    10. Elizabeth Horner, 2014. "Continued Pursuit of Happily Ever After: Low Barriers to Divorce and Happiness," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 228-240, June.
    11. Amanda Gosling & Maria D. C. Garcia-Alonso, 2015. "Endogenous divorce and human capital production," Studies in Economics 1521, School of Economics, University of Kent.

    More about this item


    unilateral divorce; child outcomes;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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