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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://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
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

    Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/
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