, Volume 51, Issue 6, pp 2103–2126 | Cite as

Direct and Indirect Effects of Unilateral Divorce Law on Marital Stability

  • Thorsten KneipEmail author
  • Gerrit Bauer
  • Steffen Reinhold


Previous research examining the impact of unilateral divorce law (UDL) on the prevalence of divorce has provided mixed results. Studies based on cross-sectional cross-country/cross-state survey data have received criticism for disregarding unobserved heterogeneity across countries, as have studies using country-level panel data for failing to account for possible mediating mechanisms at the micro level. We seek to overcome both shortcomings by using individual-level event-history data from 11 European countries (SHARELIFE) and controlling for unobserved heterogeneity over countries and cohorts. We find that UDL in total increased the incidence of marital breakdown by about 20 %. This finding, however, neglects potential selection effects into marriage. Accordingly, the estimated effect of unilateral divorce laws becomes much larger when we control for age at marriage, which is used as indicator for match quality. Moreover, we find that UDL particularly affects marital stability in the presence of children.


Divorce Family law Family economics Survival analysis 



This article uses data from SHARELIFE release 1, as of November 24, 2010; or SHARE release 2.5.0, as of May 24, 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 U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, Y1-AG-4553-01 and OGHA 04-064, IAG BSR06-11, R21 AG025169), as well as from various national sources, is gratefully acknowledged (see for a full list of funding institutions). We thank Henning Best, Martina Brandt, Josef Brüderl, Tabea Bucher-Koenen, Andrew Cherlin, and Stefania Marcassa for valuable comments.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thorsten Kneip
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gerrit Bauer
    • 2
  • Steffen Reinhold
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA)Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social PolicyMunichGermany
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of Munich (LMU)MunichGermany
  3. 3.E.CA EconomicsBerlinGermany

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