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Divorce laws and fertility decisions

Bellido, Héctor and Marcén, Miriam (2013): Divorce laws and fertility decisions.

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Abstract

This paper explores the effect of divorce law reforms on fertility. By modifying the value of marriage, the introduction of divorce law reforms 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. Divorce reforms decreased the Total Fertility Rate by about 0.2. The magnitude of the effect is sizable, taking into account that the average Total Fertility Rate declined from 2.84 in 1960 to 1.66 in 2006. These findings are robust to alternative specifications and controls for observed (such as the liberalization of abortion and the availability of the birth-control pill, among others) and unobserved country-specific factors, and time-varying factors at the country level. Supplemental analysis, developed to understand the mechanisms through which divorce law reforms affect fertility, shows that both marital and out-of-wedlock fertility decline, but that the impact on marital fertility varies, depending on whether couples are married prior to or after divorce law reforms.

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