Essays on the Economics of the Family

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Essays on the Economics of the Family

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Title: Essays on the Economics of the Family
Author: Rotz, Dana
Citation: Rotz, Dana. 2012. Essays on the Economics of the Family. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation contains three essays analyzing how families form and how family members interact. The first chapter studies and connects recent trends in age at marriage and divorce. The second chapter looks within marriages to analyze household bargaining. The final chapter examines the effects on cohort characteristics of the changes in fertility induced by the legalization of abortion. In my first essay, I explore the extent to which the rise in age at marriage can explain the rapid decrease in divorce rates for cohorts marrying from 1980 to 2004. Three different empirical approaches all demonstrate that an increase in women’s age at marriage can explain at least 60 percent of the decline in the hazard of divorce since 1980. I further develop and simulate an integrated model of the marriage market to demonstrate that monotone decreases in gains to marriage could lead to both the initial rise in divorce and its subsequent fall. My second essays analyzes the impact of the early 1990s state waivers from welfare guidelines to understand how changes in options outside of marriage affect household expenditures. Welfare waivers decreased the public assistance available to impoverished divorced women and thereby reduced a woman’s bargaining threat point in marriage. Using expenditure data and an empirical synthetic control approach, I find that decreases in potential welfare benefits altered the expenditure patterns of two-parent families containing less-educated or stay-at-home mothers. The changes in expenditure patterns suggest that reductions in a wife’s outside options cause her utility within marriage to decline. My third essay examines how cohorts whose mothers had legal and safe access to abortion differ from those whose mothers did not. Using both birth certificate and wage data, I demonstrate that granting women access to abortion led to changes in child characteristics, even among groups of children born within months or weeks of each other. Analysis further suggests that soon after legalization, women used abortion to better-time their births. Moreover, access to abortion increased the eventual wages of low-wage, black, and Hispanic workers but not the wages of whites or high-wage workers.
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