IZA DP No. 4314: The Effect of Joint Custody on Marriage and Divorce
revised version published in: Journal of the European Economic Association, 2013, 11 (2), 278–315
Since the 1970s almost all states have introduced a form of joint custody after divorce. We analyze the causal effect of these custody law reforms on the incidence of marriage and divorce. Our identification strategy exploits the different timing of reforms across states and the control group of divorcing couples without minors. Estimations based on state panel data suggest that the introduction of joint custody led to a long-run increase in marriage rates. There is no convincing evidence for an impact of joint custody on divorce rates. In sum, joint custody has increased the stock of married people and dampened the persistent downturn in marriage. Our empirical evidence is fully consistent with the supposition that these additional marriages are the result of an increased incentive of men to marry.