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The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics

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Divorce laws and divorce rate in the US

Stefania Marcassa
  • Corresponding author
  • Université de Cergy-Pontoise THEMA (UMR CNRS 8184), 33 boulevard du Port, 95011 Cergy-Pontoise cedex, FR
  • This paper is adapted from a chapter of my Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Minnesota and it has been circulating since December 2008. I thank Francesca Carapella, V.V. Chari, Alessandra Fogli, Larry E. Jones, Katya Kartashova, Ellen McGrattan, Pricila Maziero, and Fabrizio Perri, Nicola Pavoni, Thomas Picketty, Kamila Sommer, and two anonymous referees for comments and suggestions. All errors are mine.
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Published Online: 2013-08-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bejm-2012-0149


At the end of the 1960s, the US divorce law underwent major changes and the divorce rate almost doubled in all of the states. This paper shows that changes in property division, alimony transfers, and child custody assignments account for a substantial share of the increase in the divorce rate, especially for young, college educated couples with children. I solve and calibrate a model where agents make decisions on their marital status, savings, and labor supply. Under the new financial settlements, divorced men gain from a higher share of property, while women gain from an increase in alimony and child support transfers. The introduction of the unilateral decision to divorce has limited effects.

Keywords: Age-specific divorce rate; unilateral and consensual divorce; divorce laws; property division; alimony and child support; child custody; JEL classfication: J12; D13; K36


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About the article

Corresponding author: Stefania Marcassa, Université de Cergy-Pontoise THEMA (UMR CNRS 8184), 33 boulevard du Port, 95011 Cergy-Pontoise cedex, FR, e-mail:

Published Online: 2013-08-28

Published in Print: 2013-01-01

Citation Information: The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, Volume 13, Issue 1, Pages 997–1035, ISSN (Online) 1935-1690, ISSN (Print) 2194-6116, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bejm-2012-0149.

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