The Impact of Unilateral Divorce on Crime
46 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2010
Date Written: September 8, 2010
Using data from the FBI´s Uniform Crime Report program and differences in the timing of the reform’s introduction, we find that unilateral divorce increases violent crime rates by approximately 9 percent during the period under analysis. Arrest data shows an average increase of 18% for murder and 20% for aggravated assault arrest rates over the period 1965-1997. Then, using age at the time of the reform as an additional source of variation, our findings suggest that the impact of unilateral divorce is driven by cohorts of young adults who were children at the time of the reform. These results are robust to a specification that controls for confounding factors that .may operate at the state-year level. We find consistent results on the impact of the reform on the likelihood of an individual being institutionalized, using Census data for the period 1960-2000. We argue that the main channel behind our findings is the increase in poverty and inequality among families which were “surprised” by the reform. Specifically, we show that mothers in adopting states are more likely to be the household head and to fall below the poverty line, especially those with lower levels of education.
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