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The effect of marital breakup on the income distribution of women with children

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Having a female firstborn child significantly increases the probability that a woman’s first marriage breaks up. Recent work has exploited this exogenous variation to measure the effect of divorce on economic outcomes, and has concluded that divorce has little effect on women’s mean household income. However, using a Quantile Treatment Effect methodology (Abadie et al. 2002) we find that divorce widens the income distribution: it increases the probability that a woman has very low or very high household income. It appears that some women successfully generate income through child support, welfare, combining households, and increased labor supply after divorce, while others are markedly unsuccessful. Thus, although divorce has little effect on mean income, it nonetheless increases poverty and inequality. These findings imply that divorce has important welfare consequences.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/4643/

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