Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 628–649 | Cite as

House Price Shocks and Individual Divorce Risk in the United States

  • Jennifer KleinEmail author
Original Paper


Households in the United States hold a significant portion of their total wealth in owner-occupied housing. Thus, changes in housing prices may have an important impact on the marital surplus the household enjoys. What happens to marriages of homeowners when there is a shock to housing prices? This question was addressed using household data from the panel study of income dynamics (PSID) and a quarterly MSA level house price index from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, controlling for local labor market conditions. House price shocks were calculated as the cumulative sum of residuals of a second order autoregressive model from the previous four years. Results showed that positive house price shocks stabilized marriage for all couples. A one standard deviation increase in the house price shock decreased the risk of divorce in the following year by about 13–18%. The results were driven by the younger cohort of households in the PSID, those with lower educational attainment, and those with relatively low family income. The findings are discussed in the context of theories on changes in marital surplus, and changes in the transaction costs surrounding divorce.


Divorce House price shocks Marital stability 

Mathematics Subject Classification

D1 J12 R21 



I am grateful for helpful comments and suggestions from Shelly Lundberg, Peter Kuhn, Olivier Deschenes, Kelly Bedard, Maya Rossin-Slater, Kellie Forrester, three anonymous reviewers, and seminar participants at UCSB, the All-California Labor Economics Conference, and the American Economic Association Annual Meeting. Excellent research assistance provided by Paul Jepsen.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Human and Animal Participants

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

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