Courtesy of reader BK, a link to an economic analysis of woman-coddling divorce laws.
CH, thought you would like this article – economist looks at how no consent divorces have changed savings rates and women’s leisure time – the result is that men are saving more to protect themselves and women are taking a lot more leisure time.
Quotes from the research paper:
By regulating when divorce can occur and how resources are divided when it does, divorce laws can affect people’s behavior and their wellbeing both during marriage and at divorce. Household survey data from the United States shows that the introduction of unilateral divorce in states that imposed an equal division of property is associated with higher household savings and lower female employment rates among couples that are already married.
This sounds like a legal backdoor to re-institute “barefoot and pregnant” as a family norm.
During the 1970s and 1980s, divorce laws were rewritten around the United States. Until then, mutual consent—the consent of both spouses—was often a requirement and upon divorce, property was assigned to the spouse who held the formal title to it; usually, this was the husband.
Then, profound state-level reforms brought about the so-called “unilateral divorce revolution.” Most couples now entered a legal system in which either spouse could obtain a divorce without the consent of the other and also keep a fraction of the marital assets, often close to fifty percent.
Here come the negative externalities! (which feminists always miss)
This study explores the impact of the reforms—unilateral divorce and equitable property division—on the economic behavior of couples. In the US, these reforms affect no small number of people, as forty percent of married couples and about one-third of all people over their lifetimes are divorced. So how did the unilateral divorce revolution change the consumption, the labor supply decisions, and ultimately the wellbeing of married and divorced couples?
There are at least two ways in which we might expect the reforms to affect household behavior. First, because divorce is one of those events for which people cannot buy insurance, savings can act as self-insurance, allowing people to face some of the financial costs associated with marriage dissolution. Different ways of dividing property can affect the insurance role of savings. Second, even among couples that do not split up, a change in divorce laws can change a spouse’s options outside of the marriage. For instance, a property division regime change that favors one spouse can improve her position inside the marriage, particularly if she can obtain divorce without the other partner’s consent. This reallocation within marriage could result in changes in private consumption, savings, and labor supply.
Muh incentives and disincentives.
From this “difference-in-differences” exercise, two main facts emerge on the impact of unilateral divorce in states with different property division regimes. First, in states with equal division, households reported higher net savings (around 16%). Second, in such states, women who were already married became less likely to work, by approximately 5 percentage points. By analyzing additional time use surveys between 1965 and 1993, I find that the decrease in the labor supply of women was associated with an increase in the amount of leisure time they enjoyed.
So how is this result explained by the behavior of spouses in marriages operating under no consent divorce laws?
With these features, the model provides a qualitative explanation for the observed empirical patterns. In states with equal division of property, the law favors women at the time of divorce. When the equal division of property grants them more resources in the event of divorce than they are receiving in the marriage, unilateral divorce means that they can use the threat of divorce in their favor while remaining married, thereby increasing their leisure.
How’s that oppressive patriarchy working out for you feminists? Heh.
At the same time, married couples save more because spouses’ individual incentives to save are distorted because they cannot choose how to allocate savings between man and woman in the increasingly likely event of a divorce. Because mandated equal division of property does not reflect the allocation of resources within marriage, it ultimately distorts household saving behavior.
Influenced by the specter of no consent divorce law, marriage has moved from a “build a nest egg” model to a “build an insurance against property loss” model.
So how do divorce laws, which were passed when men and women’s economic outcomes differed substantially, affect wellbeing today? Simulations from the model suggest that, as intended by the policymakers who promoted it, the equal division of property gave more assets to women in the sample compared with a title-based regime that would grant them about 40% of household wealth. Thus, for couples that married before the 1970s, the reforms likely achieved the goal of supporting women through divorce. However, their effect is more nuanced if we believe that today’s couples may have a different, more egalitarian, distribution of resources within marriage.
Here’s a thought: How about crafting equitable divorce law that isn’t deliberately intended to favor women? There must be a word for favoritism in the law…. oh yeah, injustice.