IZA DP No. 2816: Does Community Property Discourage Unpartnered Births?
published in: European Journal of Political Economy, 2008, 24 (1), 25-40
This paper investigates the likelihood of an unpartnered birth as a function of laws regulating the division of joint property in case of divorce. Based on a rational choice model of marriage and assuming that on average women earn less than men, we predict that women are less likely to have an unpartnered birth when rules for the division of joint property are more advantageous to spouses with lower earnings. We derive more predictions regarding the effects of age, non-intact home, and religiosity, and the interaction between these variables and legal regime regarding divorce. We test our predictions with retrospective data from the Family Fertility Surveys collected in the 1990s. Most of our predictions are confirmed by a multi-country analysis for 17 legal regimes in 12 Western countries as well as single-country analyses for four countries. The results confirm most of our predictions. Our major findings are that the likelihood of an unpartnered birth is higher in countries that offer most women less access to joint property in case of divorce, and that this effect is weaker for teenagers than for women in their twenties.