Direct and Indirect Effects of Unilateral Divorce Law on Marital Stability
34 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2014
Date Written: November 15, 2011
Previous research on the impact of unilateral divorce law (UDL) on the prevalence of divorce has provided mixed and little cumulative results. Studies based on cross‐sectional cross-country survey data have been criticized for not being able to account for unobserved country heterogeneity, whereas studies using country‐level panel data fail to account for possible mediating mechanisms at the micro level. We seek to overcome these shortcomings by using event history data from 11 European countries and employing a difference‐indifference approach, thus combining the advantages of both approaches. We find that UDL in total increased the risk of marital breakdown by about 20%. This effect is, however, strongly moderated by selection into marriage, the direct effect being twice as large. Additionally, we find unilateral law effects on female labor force participation and transition to parenthood, although the latter is completely moderated by increased age at marriage. Neither labor force participation nor children have strong mediating effects but marital stability is found to be more sensitive to the legal setting in the presence of children.
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