Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1007827
 
 

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Marriage and Divorce: Changes and Their Driving Forces


Betsey Stevenson


University of Michigan

Justin Wolfers


University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; The Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan; The Brookings Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Kiel Institute for the World Economy

February 2007

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Working Paper No. 2007-03

Abstract:     
We document key facts about marriage and divorce, comparing trends through the past 150 years and outcomes across demographic groups and countries. While divorce rates have risen over the past 150 years, they have been falling for the past quarter century. Marriage rates have also been falling, but more strikingly, the importance of marriage at different points in the life cycle has changed, reflecting rising age at first marriage, rising divorce followed by high remarriage rates, and a combination of increased longevity with a declining age gap between husbands and wives. Cohabitation has also become increasingly important, emerging as a widely used step on the path to marriage. Out-of-wedlock fertility has also risen, consistent with declining shotgun marriages. Compared with other countries, marriage maintains a central role in American life. We present evidence on some of the driving forces causing these changes in the marriage market: the rise of the birth control pill and women's control over their own fertility; sharp changes in wage structure, including a rise in inequality and partial closing of the gender wage gap; dramatic changes in home production technologies; and the emergence of the internet as a new matching technology. We note that recent changes in family forms demand a reassessment of theories of the family and argue that consumption complementarities may be an increasingly important component of marriage. Finally, we discuss how these facts should inform family policy debates.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 40

Keywords: marriage, divorce, fertility, cohabitation, remarriage, economics of the family, demography

JEL Classification: D1, H31, I3, J1, K36, N3

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Date posted: August 20, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Stevenson, Betsey and Wolfers, Justin, Marriage and Divorce: Changes and Their Driving Forces (February 2007). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1007827 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1007827

Contact Information

Betsey Stevenson (Contact Author)
University of Michigan ( email )
500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
Justin Wolfers
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )
611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States
734-764-2447 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers
The Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan ( email )
735 South State Street, Weill Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-615-6846 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers
The Brookings Institution ( email )
1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers
Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany
HOME PAGE: http://www.iza.org/en/webcontent/personnel/photos/index_html?key=1737
Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom
HOME PAGE: http://www.cepr.org/researchers/details/rschcontact.asp?IDENT=157943
CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )
Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany
Kiel Institute for the World Economy ( email )
P.O. Box 4309
Kiel, D-24100
Germany
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