NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 28, 2006

Child support measures enacted by governments may affect the composition of households by altering the costs associated with marriage and divorce, say the authors of a study in the Journal of Legal Studies.

Overall, the authors find:

  • Public policy formation has a small but positive impact on the decision to marry.
  • Policy initiatives also have a positive but more important impact on the decision to divorce. 

The findings suggest that while Western economies place high importance on non-economic factors when getting married, almost any individual who is contemplating marriage will have personal knowledge of the economic consequences of marriage and divorce on the lives of members of his or her family.  But the authors note that their research is not definitive, as there remain several other factors that influence marriage and divorce rates:

  • Religion significantly influences divorce.
  • Whether or not an individual's parents are divorced.
  • Division of household tasks and gender ideology.

Overall, say the authors, it would appear to be a laudable objective to design public policies that promote stable marriages that make it costly for parents with dependent children to divorce.   

Source: Vicky Barham, Rose Anne Devlin, Jie Yang, "Public Policies and Private Decisions: The Effect of Child Support Measures on Marriage and Divorce," Journal of Legal Studies, June 2006.


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