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The long run consequences of unilateral divorce laws on children—evidence from SHARELIFE

Abstract

Previous research has shown adverse effects of growing up under unilateral divorce laws on long-term outcomes of children. It remains an open question of whether these effects of early childhood conditions arise due to divorce laws raising the likelihood of parental marital disruption or whether unilateral divorce laws also affect children in intact marriages by changing intra-household bargaining. Using recently available data from SHARELIFE for 11 Western European countries, we address this question employing a difference-in-differences approach and controlling for childhood family structure and socioeconomic status. Like previous research, we find adverse effects of growing up under unilateral divorce laws on the well-being of children. This effect remains even when controlling for childhood variables. We conclude that unilateral divorce laws affect children by changing family bargaining in intact marriages.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. In principle, we have information on some measures from two waves of SHARE (wave 1 and 2) which would allow us to separately identify age and cohort effects. However, we refrain from doing so because in most measures there is not much variation between waves since educational attainment and the demographic variables do not change much for individuals older than 50 years.

  2. Notice that there is a second interpretation of this variable, as it implicitly is also a control for the age of the individual when unilateral divorce laws were introduced. In our data set we cannot distinguish between those opportunities.

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Correspondence to Steffen Reinhold.

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Responsible editor: Alessandro Cigno

This paper uses data from SHARELIFE release 1, as of November 24, 2010 or SHARE release 2.4.0, as of March 17 2011. The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the fifth framework program (project QLK6-CT-2001–00360 in the thematic program Quality of Life), through the sixth framework program (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006–062193, COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005–028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006–028812) and through the seventh framework program (SHARE-PREP, 211909 and SHARE-LEAP, 227822). Additional funding from the US National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740–13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, Y1-AG-4553–01 and OGHA 04–064, IAG BSR06–11, and R21 AG025169) as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see www.share-project.org for a full list of funding institutions). We would like to thank Alessandro Cigno and two anonymous referees for helpful suggestions.

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Reinhold, S., Kneip, T. & Bauer, G. The long run consequences of unilateral divorce laws on children—evidence from SHARELIFE. J Popul Econ 26, 1035–1056 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-012-0435-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-012-0435-7

Keywords

  • Unilateral divorce
  • Childhood conditions
  • Difference-in-differences
  • Intra-household bargaining
  • Children’s human capital formation

JEL Classification

  • D13
  • J12
  • J13