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Yours, Mine and Ours: Do Divorce Laws affect the Intertemporal Behavior of Married Couples??

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  • Alessandra Voena

    (Stanford University)

Abstract

Divorce laws establish spouses' individual property rights over household resources and determine when divorce is allowed. This paper examines how such laws influence the intertemporal behavior and the welfare of U.S. married couples. I build a model of household choice about consumption, labor supply and divorce under multiple divorce law regimes and I estimate it using exogenous variation in U.S. divorce laws from the 1970s to the 1990s. Couples responded to equal division of property and unilateral divorce by increasing tangible assets up to 19%, which suggests the presence of a strong income effect for the primary earner, and by reducing female employment by over 5 percentage points, because the threat of divorce granted additional bargaining power to married woman. The bargaining weight of women implied by these responses in the model corresponds to a third of the weight of men. This indicates that equal division of assets benefited women when it was first introduced, as they has such low weight in marriage decision. However, counterfactual experiments show that equal division may be potentially detrimental to women as they gain equality in their marriage. When men and women have the same bargaining weight, women are better off in a separate property regime, as they may need more assets than their husband to smooth consumption when going into a divorce.

Suggested Citation

  • Alessandra Voena, 2010. "Yours, Mine and Ours: Do Divorce Laws affect the Intertemporal Behavior of Married Couples??," 2010 Meeting Papers 1329, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed010:1329
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • K36 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Family and Personal Law

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