IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/6398.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data

Author

Listed:
  • Leora Friedberg

Abstract

This paper revisits the evidence on the impact of unilateral divorce laws on divorce rates in the United States. Most states switched from requiring mutual consent to allowing unilateral or no-fault divorce between 1970 and 1985, while the national divorce rate more than doubled after 1965. According to the Coase theorem, however, the legal shift should have had no effect on divorce rates. Recent papers using cross-sectional micro data have disputed the empirical importance of unilateral divorce, disagreeing in particular about controls for state-level heterogeneity in divorce propensities. This paper uses a panel of state-level divorce rates which includes virtually every divorce in the U.S. over the entire period of the law changes. Adding comprehensive controls - year and state fixed effects and state fixed trends - for changing unobservable divorce propensities reveals that the divorce rate would have been about 6% lower if states had not switched to unilateral divorce, accounting for 17% of the increase in the divorce rate between 1968 and 1988. Additional results in this paper demonstrate that the type of unilateral divorce law that states adopted matters. Weaker versions of unilateral divorce, which retain elements of mutual divorce, raised the divorce rate significantly, but by less than the strongest versions of unilateral divorce did.

Suggested Citation

  • Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6398
    Note: PE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w6398.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jacobson, Louis S & LaLonde, Robert J & Sullivan, Daniel G, 1993. "Earnings Losses of Displaced Workers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 685-709, September.
    2. Peters, H Elizabeth, 1986. "Marriage and Divorce: Informational Constraints and Private Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 437-454, June.
    3. Gruber, Jonathan & Hanratty, Maria, 1995. "The Labor-Market Effects of Introducing National Health Insurance: Evidence from Canada," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 163-173, April.
    4. Peters, H Elizabeth, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 687-693, June.
    5. Allen, Douglas W, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 679-685, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," NBER Working Papers 7968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Li, Li & Mak, Eric, 2016. "Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage: The Catalyst Effect of Unilateral Divorce," MPRA Paper 83330, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Viitanen, Tarja K., 2014. "The divorce revolution and generalized trust: Evidence from the United States 1973–2010," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 25-32.
    4. Marcassa Stefania, 2013. "Divorce laws and divorce rate in the US," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 13(1), pages 1-39, August.
    5. González, Libertad & Viitanen, Tarja K., 2009. "The effect of divorce laws on divorce rates in Europe," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 127-138, February.
    6. Mumcu, Ayse & Saglam, Ismail, 2006. "Marriage and Divorce in a Model of Matching," MPRA Paper 1907, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. John Douglas Skåtun, 2017. "Bargaining on your Spouse: Coasean and Non-Coasean Behaviour Within Marriage," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 38(2), pages 263-278, June.
    8. Martin Halla & Johann Scharler, 2012. "Marriage, Divorce, and Interstate Risk Sharing," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(1), pages 55-78, March.
    9. Sakata, Kei & McKenzie, C.R., 2009. "The impact of divorce precedents on the Japanese divorce rate," Mathematics and Computers in Simulation (MATCOM), Elsevier, vol. 79(9), pages 2917-2926.
    10. 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.
    11. Levin, Mark (Левин, Марк) & Matrosova, Ksenia (Матросова, Ксения), 2018. "Development and Research of Economic Behavior of Households in Changing Conditions [Разработка И Исследование Экономического Поведения Домохозяйств В Изменяющихся Условиях]," Working Papers 041825, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
    12. Bargain, Olivier & González, Libertad & Keane, Claire & Özcan, Berkay, 2012. "Female labor supply and divorce: New evidence from Ireland," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1675-1691.
    13. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 27-52, Spring.
    14. Akiko Maruyama & Takashi Shimizu & Kazuhiro Yamamoto, 2009. "Exit and Voice in a Marriage Market," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 09-04, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics.
    15. González-Val, Rafael & Marcén, Miriam, 2012. "Unilateral divorce versus child custody and child support in the U.S," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 613-643.
    16. Shen, Danqing, 2018. "Marriage, Divorce and Sorting: A Reassessment of Unilateral Divorce Laws," MPRA Paper 92848, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. González-Val, Rafael & Marcén, Miriam, 2012. "Breaks in the breaks: An analysis of divorce rates in Europe," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 242-255.
    18. Wolfgang Frimmel & Martin Halla & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2013. "Assortative mating and divorce: evidence from Austrian register data," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 176(4), pages 907-929, October.
    19. Giorgio Gronchi & Elena Parilina & Alessandro Tampieri, 2021. "Plenty of Fish in the Sea: Divorce Choice and the Quality of Singles," Mathematics, MDPI, vol. 9(23), pages 1-33, November.
    20. Fernández, Raquel & Wong, Joyce Cheng, 2014. "Free to Leave? A Welfare Analysis of Divorce Regimes," CEPR Discussion Papers 10047, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • K39 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Other

    Lists

    This item is featured on the following reading lists, Wikipedia, or ReplicationWiki pages:
    1. Did unilateral divorce raise divorce rates? Evidence from panel data (AER 1998) in ReplicationWiki

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6398. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.