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

  • Alessandra Voena

    (Stanford University)

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    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.

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    File URL: https://www.economicdynamics.org/meetpapers/2010/paper_1329.pdf
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    Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2010 Meeting Papers with number 1329.

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    Date of creation: 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:red:sed010:1329
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    1. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2011. "Fertility and the Plough," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 499-503, May.
    2. Helmut Rainer, 2003. "Should We Write Prenuptial Contracts?," Economics Discussion Papers 572, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    3. Chiappori, Pierre-André & Iyigun, Murat & Weiss, Yoram, 2008. "An Assignment Model with Divorce and Remarriage," IZA Discussion Papers 3892, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Libertad González & Berkay Özcan, 2008. "The risk of divorce and household saving behavior," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 38463, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Virginia Sanchez-Marcos & Orazio Attanasio & Hamish Low, 2004. "Explaining Changes in Female Labour Supply in a Life-Cycle Model," 2004 Meeting Papers 492, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Saku Aura, 2002. "Uncommitted Couples: Some Efficiency and Policy Implications of Marital Bargaining," CESifo Working Paper Series 801, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Jerome Adda & Russell W. Cooper, 2003. "Dynamic Economics: Quantitative Methods and Applications," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262012014, June.
    8. Daniela Del Boca & Christopher Flinn, 2009. "Endogeneous Household Interaction," CHILD Working Papers wp08_09, CHILD - Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic economics - ITALY.
    9. Chiappori, Pierre-André & Iyigun, Murat & Weiss, Yoram, 2007. "Public Goods, Transferable Utility and Divorce Laws," IZA Discussion Papers 2646, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Powers, Elizabeth T., 1998. "Does means-testing welfare discourage saving? evidence from a change in AFDC policy in the United States," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 33-53, April.
    11. Maurizio Mazzocco, 2007. "Household Intertemporal Behaviour: A Collective Characterization and a Test of Commitment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 857-895.
    12. Johnson, William R & Skinner, Jonathan, 1986. "Labor Supply and Marital Separation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 455-69, June.
    13. Shintaro Yamaguchi & Claudia Ruiz & Maurizio Mazzocco, 2014. "Labor Supply, Wealth Dynamics and Marriage Decisions," 2014 Meeting Papers 210, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    14. repec:bla:restud:v:74:y:2007:i:3:p:857-895 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Amalia Miller, 2011. "The effects of motherhood timing on career path," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 1071-1100, July.
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