Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress
Betsey Stevenson () and
Justin Wolfers ()
No 10175, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc
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.
JEL-codes: D1 I1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Note: LE LS
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (10) Track citations by RSS feed
Published as Stevenson, Betsey and Justin Wolfers. "Bargaining In The Shadow Of The Law: Divorce Laws And Family Distress," Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2006, v121(1,Feb), 267-288.
Downloads: (external link)
Journal Article: Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress (2006)
Working Paper: Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress (2003)
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.
Export reference: BibTeX
RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan)
Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10175
Ordering information: This working paper can be ordered from
Access Statistics for this paper
More papers in NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.. Contact information at EDIRC.
Bibliographic data for series maintained by ().