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The Effect of Marriage and Divorce on Women's Economic Well-Being

Pamela J. Smock, Wendy D. Manning and Sanjiv Gupta
American Sociological Review
Vol. 64, No. 6 (Dec., 1999), pp. 794-812
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2657403
Page Count: 19
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Effect of Marriage and Divorce on Women's Economic Well-Being
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Abstract

Some social commentators and social scientists have called for the strengthening of divorce laws, a call based, in part, on the apparently strong economic advantage marriage holds for women and their children. We focus on the question of whether divorced women would experience the same absolute levels of economic well-being by staying married as women who remain married experience. We also examine the argument that all women are economically vulnerable once marriage ends by examining whether the average married woman would, if she were to divorce, experience the same low levels of economic well-being as divorced women do. Using longitudinal data from the National Survey of Families and Households, we estimate endogenous switching regression models that simultaneously predict the odds of divorce and subsequent economic well-being for women who divorce and for those who remain married. Our calculations show that if divorced women were to remain married, their economic well-being would improve substantially but would not attain the level of women who remain married. We also find that if married women were to divorce, their average level of economic well-being would be about the same as that of divorced women, supporting the view that women's economic vulnerability outside of marriage is ubiquitous.

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