© 2017 The Department of Economics, University of Oxford and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
OXFORD BULLETIN OF ECONOMICS AND STATISTICS, 80, 2 (2018) 0305–9049
The Long-Term Effects of Legalizing Divorce on
alez† and Tarja Viitanen‡
†Department of Economics, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Barcelona GSE,
We estimate the effect of divorce legalization on the long-term well-being of children,
by exploiting the different timing of divorce legalization across Europe. We compare the
adult outcomes of cohorts raised when divorce was banned with those of cohorts raised
after divorce was legalized in the same country. We also have ‘control’ countries where all
cohorts were exposed (or not exposed) to legal divorce as children. We ﬁnd that women
who grew up under legal divorce have lower earnings and income and worse health as
adults compared with women who grew up under illegal divorce. These negative effects
are not found for men.
We study the effect of legalizing divorce on the long-term well-being of children, by
exploiting the recent legalization of divorce in several European countries.
The legal regulation of divorce has been shown to affect a number of outcomes for
In particular, a recent literature has studied the effect of unilateral divorce
legislation in the US on a variety of outcomes, from divorce rates to spousal well-being,
labour supply, within-household bargaining power and marital investments. The ﬁndings
to date suggest that the introduction of unilateral divorce led to an increase in divorce rates,
at least in the short term (Friedberg, 1998, Gruber, 2004, Wolfers, 2006), an increase in
female labour supply (Stevenson, 2008, Genadek, Stock and Stoddard, 2007) and a decline
in marriage-speciﬁc investments (Stevenson, 2007).
Less explored has been the effect of divorce legislation on child outcomes. There is
of course a large literature spanning various ﬁelds that has long tried to disentangle the
effects of parental divorce on child well-being.
Within the economics literature, recent
JEL Classiﬁcation numbers: J12, J13, K36.
*The authors declare that they have no conﬂict of interest.
See, for instance, Alesina and Giuliano (2007), Gardner and Oswald (2006), Gonz´alez and
Ozcan (2013), Rasul
(2006), Stevenson (2007, 2008) and Stevenson and Wolfers (2006).
See Amato (2000) and Amato and Keith (1991) for reviews from the sociological literature, and Tartari (2015),
Sanz de Galdeano and Vuri (2007) and Manski et al. (1992) for some recent contributions in economics.