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The Impact of Unilateral Divorce on Crime

  • Cáceres-Delpiano, Julio

    ()

    (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

  • Giolito, Eugenio P.

    ()

    (Universidad Alberto Hurtado)

In this paper, we evaluate the impact of unilateral divorce on crime. First, using crime rates from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report program for the period 1965-1998 and differences in the timing in the introduction of the reform, we find that unilateral divorce has a positive impact on violent crime rates, with an 8% to 12% average increase for the period under consideration. Second, arrest data not only confirms the findings of a positive impact on violent crime but also shows that this impact is concentrated among those age groups (15 to 24) that are more likely to engage in these type of offenses. Specifically, for the age group 15-19, we observe an average impact over the period under analysis of 40% and 36% for murder and aggravated assault arrest rates, respectively. Disaggregating total arrest rates by race, we find that the effects are driven by the Black sub-sample. Third, using the age at the time of the divorce law reform as a second source of variation to analyze age-specific arrest rates we confirm the positive impact on the different types of violent crime as well as a positive impact for property crime rates, controlling for all confounding factors that may operate at the state-year, state age or age-year level. The results for murder arrests and for homicide rates (Supplemental Homicide Report) for the 15-24 age groups are robust with respect to specifications and specifically those that include year-state and year-age dummies. The magnitude goes from 15% to 40% depending on the specification and the age at the time of the reform.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3380.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Labor Economics, 2012, 30 (1) 215 - 248
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3380
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  1. Betsey Stevenson, 2006. "The impact of divorce laws on marriage-specific capital," Working Paper Series 2006-43, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  2. Chiappori, Pierre-André & Fortin, Bernard & Lacroix, Guy, 2001. "Marriage Market, Divorce Legislation and Household Labor Supply," Cahiers de recherche 0103, Université Laval - Département d'économique.
  3. 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.
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  9. Bedard, Kelly & Deschenes, Olivier, 2003. "Sex Preferences, Marital Dissolution and the Economic Status of Women," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt07g2372x, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
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  11. 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).
  12. 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.
  13. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Alesina, Alberto & Giuliano, Paola & Nunn, Nathan, 2011. "Fertility and the Plough," IZA Discussion Papers 5502, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. Stéphane Mechoulan, 2006. "Divorce Laws and the Structure of the American Family," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 143-174, 01.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Donohue, John J & Wolfers, Justin, 2006. "Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate," CEPR Discussion Papers 5493, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  22. 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.
  23. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
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  27. 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.
  28. Cáceres-Delpiano, Julio & Giolito, Eugenio P., 2008. "How Unilateral Divorce Affects Children," IZA Discussion Papers 3342, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  29. Marianne E. Page & Ann Huff Stevens, 2004. "The Economic Consequences of Absent Parents," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  30. Morgan Kelly, 2000. "Inequality And Crime," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 530-539, November.
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