Title: No-Fault Divorce and the Compression of Marriage Ages
Reference Number: 1077
Publication Date: November 2003

Douglas W. Allen
Simon Fraser University

Krishna Pendakur
Simon Fraser University

Wing Suen
The University of Hong Kong

We examine the impact of the introduction of no-fault divorce on the age at first marriage in the context of a model where everyone has a different value of marriage. Our model predicts that the spread in the age at first marriage should become smaller when legal regimes switch from fault to no-fault. We test this hypothesis with a large data set of American marriage records from 1970 to 1995. We find support for our prediction--the standard deviation of the log age at first marriage drops by approximately eight percent with the introduction of no-fault divorce. Given our model, the median and mean age of first marriage act as indicators of welfare over the transition. We find that the median and mean age at first marriage drop slightly, suggesting that the median person is slightly better off.

Published in Economic Inquiry 44:3 (2006), pp. 547-558.

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Last modified: 01/24/2007