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

  • Almudena Sevilla-Sanz
  • Delia Furtado and 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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File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/working_papers/paper495.pdf
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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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