Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=481447
 
 

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Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress


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

December 2003

NBER Working Paper No. w10175

Abstract:     
Over the past thirty years changes in divorce law have significantly increased access to divorce. The different timing of divorce law reform across states provides a useful quasi-experiment with which to examine the effects of this change. We analyze state panel data to estimate changes in suicide, domestic violence, and spousal murder rates arising from the change in divorce law. Suicide rates are used as a quantifiable measure of wellbeing, albeit one that focuses on the extreme lower tail of the distribution. We find a large, statistically significant, and econometrically robust decline in the number of women committing suicide following the introduction of unilateral divorce. No significant effect is found for men. Domestic violence is analyzed using data on both family conflict resolution and intimate homicide rates. The results indicate a large decline in domestic violence for both men and women in states that adopted unilateral divorce. We find suggestive evidence that unilateral divorce led to a decline in females murdered by their partners, while the data revealed no discernible effects for men murdered. In sum, we find strong evidence that legal institutions have profound real effects on outcomes within families.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 34

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Date posted: January 4, 2004  

Suggested Citation

Stevenson, Betsey and Wolfers, Justin, Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress (December 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w10175. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=481447

Contact Information

Betsey Stevenson
University of Michigan ( email )
701 Tappan St. Rm E2600
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
Justin Wolfers (Contact Author)
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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