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Does Culture Affect Divorce Decisions? Evidence from European Immigrants in the US

  • Almudena Sevilla-Sanz
  • Delia Furtado
  • Miriam Marcen

This paper explores the role of culture in determining divorce decisions by examining differences in divorce rates by country of origin of immigrants in the United States.� Because immigrants who arrived in the US at a young age are all exposed to a common set of American laws and institutions, we interpret cross-ancestry differences in divorce rates as evidence of the effect of culture.� The quantitatively significant estimated effects of culture are robust to controlling for a large number of home country variables such as average church attendance and GDP.� Supplemental analyses indicate that divorce culture has a stronger impact on the divorce decisions of females than of males pointing to a potentially gendered nature of divorce taboos.� We also find that divorce tendencies are especially weak for immigrants from countries with low divorce rates that reside amidst a large number of co-ethnics, suggesting that culture is transmitted not only from parents to children but also within ethnic communities.� Given the importance of divorce as a determinant of later outcomes in life, our findings imply that culture should be taken into consideration when formulating family policies.

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Paper provided by University of Oxford, Department of Economics in its series Economics Series Working Papers with number 495.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 2010
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Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:495
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  1. Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates? A Reconciliation and New Results," Research Papers 1819, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  2. Fernández, Raquel & Fogli, Alessandra, 2005. "Fertility: The Role of Culture and Family Experience," CEPR Discussion Papers 5221, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  4. González-Val, Rafael & Marcén, Miriam, 2010. "Unilateral Divorce vs. Child Custody and Child Support in the U.S," MPRA Paper 24695, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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  7. 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.
  8. Almudena Sevilla-Sanz, 2007. "Division of Household Labor and Cross-Country Differences in Household Formation Rates," Economics Series Working Papers 325, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  9. Simon Burgess & Carol Propper & Arnstein Aassve, 2003. "The role of income in marriage and divorce transitions among young Americans," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 455-475, 08.
  10. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Fernández, Raquel & Fogli, Alessandra, 2005. "Culture: An Empirical Investigation of Beliefs, Work and Fertility," CEPR Discussion Papers 5089, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Alberto Chong & Eliana La Ferrara, 2009. "Television and Divorce: Evidence from Brazilian Novelas," Research Department Publications 4611, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  13. Michael Svarer & Mette Verner, 2008. "Do children stabilize relationships in Denmark?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 21(2), pages 395-417, April.
  14. Giuliano, Paola, 2006. "Living Arrangements in Western Europe: Does Cultural Origin Matter?," IZA Discussion Papers 2042, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Allen, Douglas W., 1998. "No-fault divorce in Canada: Its cause and effect," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 129-149, October.
  16. Bradley T. Heim, 2003. "Does Child Support Enforcement Reduce Divorce Rates?: A Reexamination," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(4).
  17. Sigve Tjøtta & Kjell Vaage, 2008. "Public transfers and marital dissolution," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 21(2), pages 419-437, April.
  18. Smith, Ian, 1997. "Explaining the Growth of Divorce in Great Britain," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 44(5), pages 519-44, November.
  19. Evelyn Lehrer & Carmel Chiswick, 1993. "Religion as a determinant of marital stability," Demography, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 385-404, August.
  20. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Kevin Milligan, 2009. "O Sister, Where Art Thou? The Role of Son Preference and Sex Choice: Evidence from Immigrants to Canada," NBER Working Papers 15391, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. 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.
  22. Lehrer, Evelyn L, 1996. "Religion as a Determinant of Marital Fertility," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 173-96, May.
  23. Barry Chiswick & Christina Houseworth, 2011. "Ethnic intermarriage among immigrants: human capital and assortative mating," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 149-180, June.
  24. Alberto Bisin & Giorgio Topa & Thierry Verdier, 2004. "Religious Intermarriage and Socialization in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(3), pages 615-664, June.
  25. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Kevin Milligan, 2013. "Son Preference and the Persistence of Culture: Evidence from South and East Asian Immigrants to Canada," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 39(1), pages 75-95, 03.
  26. Delia Furtado & Nikolaos Theodoropoulos, 2011. "Interethnic marriage: a choice between ethnic and educational similarities," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 1257-1279, October.
  27. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:109:y:1994:i:3:p:685-99 is not listed on IDEAS
  28. Boheim, Rene & Ermisch, John, 2001. " Partnership Dissolution in the UK--The Role of Economic Circumstances," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 63(2), pages 197-208, May.
  29. Jensen, Peter & Smith, Nina, 1990. "Unemployment and Marital Dissolution," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 215-29, October.
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