Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 229–248 | Cite as

Domestic violence laws and suicide in Mexico

  • Trinidad BelecheEmail author


In the mid-1990s Mexican states began adopting reforms that for the first time criminalized domestic violence. Two separate policies were also adopted which allowed domestic violence to be grounds for divorce and established prevention and assistance programs for victims of domestic violence. I exploit the variation in time and geography to estimate the impact of these three policies on female suicide rates using a difference-in-difference methodology. The results indicate that states that criminalized domestic violence exhibited a 22–34% decrease in suicide rates compared to non-adopting states, but there is no robust evidence that the other two policies had any impact. A battery of tests provides support for the robustness of these findings and indicates that most of the effects are concentrated among married women. Analysis of a cross-sectional, nationally representative survey covering violence against women in Mexico suggests reduction in sexual and physical violence as a possible mechanism behind the reduction in female suicide rates. These findings are consistent with an intra-household bargaining model with asymmetric information and costly conflict which predicts that policies that reduce conflict within the household can reduce female suicides. The results highlight the importance of developing and implementing policies that facilitate reporting and providing access to legal institutions for victims of domestic violence, which can in turn improve a victim’s wellbeing.


Domestic violence Mexico Public policy Suicide rate Intra-household bargaining Conflict 

JEL Classifications

J12 K3 054 D1 



This paper evolved from a chapter of my PhD dissertation and has benefited greatly from comments and suggestions from David Fairris, Mindy Marks, Jorge Agüero, Nellie Lew, Rosemarie Lavaty Summers, and participants of the Eastern Economic Association 2011 Meetings, CSWEP CeMENT Workshop 2015, and three anonymous referees. I also thank Garance Genicot for her invaluable discussion about the model. All errors are my own.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary Information


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RAND CorporationArlingtonUSA
  2. 2.Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Silver SpringUSA

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