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Divorce laws and fertility decisions

Bellido, Héctor and Marcén, Miriam (2011): Divorce laws and fertility decisions.

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Abstract

This paper explores the effect of divorce law reform on fertility. By modifying the value of marriage, the adoption of no-fault and unilateral divorce may impact fertility decisions. To identify the effects of those reforms on fertility, we use a quasi experiment exploiting the legislative history of divorce liberalization across Europe. Results suggest that divorce law reforms have a negative and permanent effect on fertility. These findings are robust to alternative specifications and controls for unobserved country-specific factors, time-varying factors at the country level, the liberalization of abortion, and the availability of the birth-control pill. Supplemental analysis, developed to understand the mechanisms through which divorce law reforms affect fertility, shows that both marital and out-of-wedlock fertility declines, but that the impact on marital fertility varies depending on whether couples are married prior to or after divorce law reform.

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