August 19, 2008
Well Whaddaya Know?

One of the most common convictions of social right-wingers is that relaxing the divorce laws in the 60s and 70s in the US lead to higher divorce rates and a very long list of social ills. Like most common convictions, it would appear this doesn't stand up to close examination:

The first surprise is that looser divorce laws have actually had little effect on the number of marriages that fall apart. Economist Justin Wolfers of Stanford University, in a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), found that when California passed a no-fault divorce law in 1970, the divorce rate jumped, then fell back to its old level—and then fell some more.
In short, nothing bad happened. But in another NBER paper, Wolfers and fellow economist Betsey Stevenson of the University of Pennsylvania report that in states that relaxed their divorce laws, some very good things happened: Fewer women committed suicide, and fewer were murdered by husbands or other "intimate" partners. In addition, both men and women suffered less domestic violence, compared to states that didn't change their laws.

The only thing I find surprising is it took this long for someone to run the numbers. Once you think about it, it all really does make sense.

Posted by scott at August 19, 2008 08:26 AM

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