Empirical essays on divorce and child investment /

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Nunley, John
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation consists of four chapters on economic, legal, and demographic determinants of divorce rates and child investment. The first chapter, "The Effects of Household Income Volatility on Divorce," examines whether fluctuations in household income affect individual-level divorce propensities, finding that household income volatility plays a significant role in determining marriage outcomes. I find statistical evidence indicating that positive and negative household income volatility increases the probability of divorce for men and women. By contrast, positive shocks to household income lower the risk of divorce for lower-household income individuals, and increase the divorce risk for those with higher levels of household income. Negative shocks to household income raise the probability of divorce regardless of the level of household income. The second chapter, "Inflation and Other Aggregate Determinants of the Trend in U.S. Divorce Rates since the 1960s," focuses on whether increases in the inflation rate in the 1960s and 1970s contributed to the sharp rise in the divorce rate. Inflation is found to have substantial, positive, persistent effects on the divorce rate. The third chapter (co-authored with Joachim Zietz), "Explaining the Evolution of the U.S. Divorce Rate," extends research on determinants of the divorce rate by considering whether increased access to oral contraception contributed to the sharp rise in the divorce rate. We also explicitly take into account the potential impact of the Vietnam War on the divorce rate. Our econometric evidence supports the idea that increased access to oral contraception and the Vietnam War shifted the divorce rate to a new, higher level. Opposite to previous work, we find a negative relationship between the divorce rate and the rising economic independence of women, for which their participation in higher education proxies. The fourth chapter (co-authored with Alan Seals), "Child-Custody Reform and Marriage-Speci
Advisers: Charles L. Baum; E. Anthon Eff; Mark Owens; Joachim Zietz.