Less money after divorce – how the 2008 alimony reform in Germany affected spouses’ labor supply, leisure and marital stability

  • Julia BredtmannEmail author
  • Christina Vonnahme


The 2008 alimony reform in Germany considerably reduced post-marital and caregiver alimony. We analyze how individuals adapted to these changed rulings in terms of labor supply, the intra-household allocation of leisure, and marital stability. We use the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) and conduct a difference-in-difference analysis to investigate couples’ behavioral responses to the reform. In general, the results do not confirm theoretical expectations from labor supply and household bargaining models. In particular, we do not find evidence that women increase their labor supply as a result of the negative expected income effect. Neither do our results reveal that leisure is shifted from women to men as a response to the changed bargaining positions. We find some evidence that married couples are more likely to separate after the reform, but this effect vanishes once unobserved heterogeneity at the couple level is controlled for.


Alimony Marital instability Female labor supply Intra-household bargaining 

JEL Codes

J12 J13 J22 



The authors are grateful to the editors, Shoshana Grossbard and Tansel Yilmazer, two anonymous reviewers, Thomas Bauer, Christina Gathmann, and participants at the BeNa internal workshop 2015, the 9th RGS Doctoral Conference, the 2016 Annual Conference of the Verein für Socialpolitik and the 28th Annual Conference of the European Association of Labour Economists for valuable comments and suggestions.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Altindag, D. T., Nunley, J., & Seals, A. (2017). Child-custody reform and the division of labor in the household. Review of Economics of the Household, 15(3), 833–856.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Becker, G. S. (1965). A theory of the allocation of time. The Economic Journal, 75(299), 493–517.Google Scholar
  3. Becker, G. S. (1993). A Treatise on the Family. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Becker, G. S., Landes, E. M., & Michael, R. T. (1977). An economic analysis of marital instability. Journal of Political Economy, 85(6), 1141–1187.Google Scholar
  5. Bertelsmann Stiftung (2009). Das neue Unterhaltsrecht—Mehr Fairness nach der Trennung?: Dokumentation einer Umfrage. Accessed 14 Jan 2015.
  6. BGB (2007). Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch [in der Fassung der Bekanntmachung vom 2. Januar 2002; zuletzt geändert durch Art. 2 Abs. 16 Gesetz zur Reform des Personenstandsrechts (Personenstandsrechtsreformgesetz - PStRG) vom 19.2.2007] (60th ed., Beck-Texte, Vol. 5001). München: Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag.Google Scholar
  7. BGB (2008). Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch [in der Fassung der Bekanntmachung vom 2. Januar 2002; zuletzt geändert durch Art. 1 Gesetz zur Änderung des Unterhaltsrechts vom 21.12.2007] (61st ed., Beck-Texte, Vol. 5001). München: Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag.Google Scholar
  8. Born, W, Schwab, D, Säcker, F. J., & Rixecker, R. (2012). Familienrecht II: §§ 1589 - 1921 SGB VIII. In: In D. Schwab (Ed.) Münchener Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch. 6th ed. Vol. 8. München: C. H. Beck.Google Scholar
  9. Borth, H. (2007). Unterhaltsrechtsänderungsgesetz: (UÄndG): Gesetz zur Änderung des Unterhaltsrechts (FamRZ-Buch, Vol. 24). Bielefeld: Gieseking.Google Scholar
  10. Brassiolo, P. (2016). Domestic violence and divorce law: When divorce threats become credible. Journal of Labor Economics, 34(2), 443–477.Google Scholar
  11. BT-Drs. 14/3781 (2000). Drucksache des deutschen Bundestages: Beschlussempfehlung und Bericht des Rechtsausschusses (6. Ausschuss) zu dem Gesetzentwurf der Fraktionen SPD und BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN – Drucksache 14/1247 – Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Ächtung der Gewalt in der Erziehung. Accessed 5 Jul 2000.Google Scholar
  12. BT-Drs. 16/1830 (2006). Gesetzentwurf der Bundesregierung: Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Änderung des Unterhaltsrechts. Accessed 15 Jun 2006.Google Scholar
  13. Bundesgerichtshof (1986). IVb ZS, Urteil vom 09.07.1986 - IVb ZR 39/85. FamRZ, 886–889.Google Scholar
  14. Bundesverfassungsgericht (2007). 1. Senat, Beschluss v. 28.2.2007 - 1 BvL 9/04. FamRZ, 965–974.Google Scholar
  15. Chiappori, P.-A., Iyigun, M., & Weiss, Y. (2009). Divorce Laws, Remarriage and Spousal Welfare. Unpublished Working Paper. Accessed 7 Apr 2019.
  16. Chiappori, P.-A., Iyigun, M., & Weiss, Y. (2015). The Becker-Coase Theorem Reconsidered. Journal of Demographic Economics, 81(2), 157–177.Google Scholar
  17. Chiappori, P.-A., Iyigun, M., Lafortune, J., & Weiss, Y. (2017). Changing the rules midway: the impact of granting alimony rights on existing and newly-formed partnerships. The Economic Journal , 127(604), 1874–1905.Google Scholar
  18. Coase, R. H. (1960). The Problem of Social Cost. The Journal of Law & Economics, 3, 1–44.Google Scholar
  19. Deutscher Bundestag (2006). Protokoll der 28. Sitzung des Rechtsausschusses (6. Ausschuss) der 16. Wahlperiode. Accessed 16 Dec 2006.Google Scholar
  20. Deutscher Bundestag (2007). Gesetz zur Änderung des Unterhaltsrechts: Vom 21. Dezember 2007. Bundesgesetzblatt Teil I, 3189–3193.Google Scholar
  21. Fahn, M., Rees, R., & Wuppermann, A. (2016). Relational contracts for household formation, fertility choice and separation. Journal of Population Economics, 29(2), 421–455.Google Scholar
  22. Friedberg, L. (1998). Did unilateral divorce raise divorce rates? Evidence from panel data. The American Economic Review, 88(3), 608–627.Google Scholar
  23. González, L., & Viitanen, T. K. (2009). The effect of divorce laws on divorce rates in Europe. European Economic Review, 53(2), 127–138.Google Scholar
  24. Gray, J. S. (1998). Divorce-law changes, household bargaining, and married women’s labor supply. The American Economic Review, 88(3), 628–642.Google Scholar
  25. Gruber, U. (2013). Münchener Kommentar zur Zivilprozessordnung. In T. Rauscher, P. Wax, & J. Wenzel (Eds.), Münchener Kommentar zur Zivilprozessordnung mit Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz und Nebengesetzen. München: Beck.Google Scholar
  26. Gronau, R. (1977). Leisure, home production, and work—the theory of the allocation of time revisited. Journal of Political Economy, 85(6), 1099–1123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kluve, J., & Tamm, M. (2013). Parental leave regulations, mothers’ labor force attachment and fathers’ childcare involvement: Evidence from a natural experiment. Journal of Population Economics, 26(3), 983–1005.Google Scholar
  28. Kneip, T., & Bauer, G. (2007). Effects of different divorce probabilities on female labor force participation and fertility. Arbeitspapier, Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung, 102. Mannheim: Universität Mannheim, Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung (MZES).Google Scholar
  29. Lechner, M., Rodriguez-Planas, N., & Fernández Kranz, D. (2016). Difference-in-difference estimation by FE and OLS when there is panel non-response. Journal of Applied Statistics, 43(11), 2044–2052.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Peters, H. E. (1986). Marriage and divorce: informational constraints and private contracting. The American Economic Review, 76(3), 437–454.Google Scholar
  31. Rangel, M. A. (2006). Alimony rights and intrahousehold allocation of resources: evidence from Brazil. The Economic Journal, 116(513), 627–658.Google Scholar
  32. Statistisches Bundesamt (2016). Statistik der rechtskräftigen Beschlüsse in Eheauflösungssachen (Scheidungsstatistik) und Statistik der Aufhebung von Lebenspartnerschaften: Fachserie 1 Reihe 1.4. Accessed 1 Jun 2018.
  33. Statistisches Bundesamt (2017). Bevölkerung und Erwerbstätigkeit: Fachserie 1 Reihe 3, Haushalte und Familien, Ergebnisse des Mikrozensus. Accessed 1 Jun 2018.
  34. Stevenson, B., & Wolfers, J. (2006). Bargaining in the shadow of the law: divorce laws and family distress. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 121(1), 267–288.Google Scholar
  35. Wagner, G. G., Frick, J. R., & Schupp, J. (2007). The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP)—Scope, Evolution and Enhancements. Schmollers Jahrbuch: Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts und Sozialwissenschaften, 127(1), 139–169.Google Scholar
  36. Wellenhofer, M. (2011). Familienrecht. 2nd ed. München: Beck.Google Scholar
  37. Wolfers, J. (2006). Did unilateral divorce laws raise divorce rates? A reconciliation and new results. The American Economic Review, 96(5), 1802–1820.Google Scholar
  38. Wong, H.-P. C. (2016). Credible commitments and marriage: when the homemaker gets her share at divorce. Journal of Demographic Economics, 82(3), 241–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RWI – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research45128 EssenGermany

Personalised recommendations