For Better or for Worse, But How About a Recession?
In light of the current economic crisis, we estimate hazard models of divorce to determine how state and national unemployment rates affect the likelihood of divorce. With 89,340 observations over the 1978-2006 period for 7633 couples from the 1979 NLSY, we find mixed evidence on whether increases in the unemployment rate lead to overall increases in the likelihood of divorce, which would suggest countercyclical divorce probabilities. However, further analysis reveals that the weak evidence is due to the weak economy increasing the risk of divorce only for couples in years 6 to 10 of marriage. For couples in years 1 to 5 and couples married longer than 10 years, there is no evidence of a pattern between the strength of the economy and divorce probabilities. The estimates are generally stronger in magnitude when using national instead of state unemployment rates.
This work was partially funded by Grant Number R03HD052776 from the National Institute on Child and Health Development. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.