“The impact of divorce laws on the equilibrium in the marriage market.” Submitted.
This paper investigates how the adoption of unilateral divorce affects the gains from marriage and who marries whom. Exploiting variation in the timing of adoption across the US states, I first show that unilateral divorce increases assortative matching among newlyweds. To explain the link between divorce laws and matching patterns, I specify an equilibrium model of household formation, labor supply, private and public consumption, and divorce over the lifecycle. Matching decisions depend on the anticipated welfare from marriage and divorce. The model has two key features (consistent with the data). First, working spouses whose partners do not work accumulate relatively more human capital during their lifetime, a fact that improves their outside value of divorce. Second, divorcees cannot sustain cooperation in public goods expenditures (interpreted as kids’ welfare), leading to inefficiencies that are mostly harmful to the top educated. Under unilateral divorce, the value of divorce becomes a credible threat that shifts the bargaining power in marriage, making both household production and marriage less attractive. This pushes the marriage market equilibrium towards more positive sorting in education and lower welfare, particularly for the most educated. I estimate the model using data from households that form and live under the pre-reform mutual consent divorce regime. Using the estimates, I then simulate the introduction of unilateral divorce and solve for the new equilibrium. I find sizable equilibrium effects. First, the correlation in spousal education increases and people, particularly educated females, become more likely to remain single. Second, the gains from marriage decrease for the most and the least educated with the largest impact seen for college educated females. Lastly, the marital welfare gains from acquiring a college or higher degree decreases for both males and females. These results reflect previously overlooked consequences of reducing barriers to divorce.
In the traditional marriage market literature, policies affecting partners’ property rights do not affect who marries whom. In this paper I build a theory that shows that this neutrality result breaks down if we consider marital investments which returns are unverifiable to courts and accumulate in the private account of one of the spouses. I develop an equilibrium model of marriage, household specialization, and divorce in which working spouses with stay-at-home partners accumulate relatively more human capital (a feature verified in the data). In this environment, I consider a policy change that decreases the commitment of ex-spouses to share the returns from the human capital accumulated during the marriage. I show that such a policy gives rise to an equilibrium with higher incidence of two earner households (even when specialization is efficient) and higher spousal assortative matching in human capital, relative to the pre-reform equilibrium. This prediction is supported by empirical evidence showing that the introduction of unilateral divorce in the US (a regime that reduced the enforcement of transfers among ex-spouses) is associated with higher sorting in education, parental education, and pre-marital labor earnings among newlyweds.
Families with multiple wives are observed to function as extended households, where husbands and hierarchically-organized co-wives jointly produce family output. I propose a new model of marriage markets where polygamy is legal and household output is not separable in the inputs of the senior and the junior wives. The novel implication is that both female productivity in each role and gains from marriage depend on the characteristics of potential co-wives. I show that there exists an equilibrium in which the richest men marry the highest skilled women as senior wives and the lowest skilled women as junior wives; middle wealth males marry monogamously to middle skilled women; and the poorest men remain single. The equilibrium utility gain from marriage for wives is increasing in female skill, endogenously producing a differential welfare status of co-wives (an empirical fact documented in the literature). I estimate the model with data from rural Nigeria and find support for the predicted equilibrium with co-wife inequality within the household. Counterfactual experiments show that banning polygamy is harmful for all women since it depresses the equilibrium utility price of the lowest skilled females (which in turn reduces the market power of the highest skilled women).
Improving school quality with limited resources is a key issue of policy. It has been suggested that instructing teachers to follow specific practices together with tight monitoring of their activities may help improve outcomes in underperforming schools that usually serve poor populations. This paper uses a RCT to estimate the effectiveness of guided instruction methods as implemented in under-performing schools in Chile. The intervention improved performance substantially for some students. However, the effect is mainly accounted for by children from relatively higher income backgrounds and not for the most deprived. Based on the CLASS instrument we document that quality of teacher-student interactions is positively correlated with the performance of low income students; however, the intervention did not affect these interactions. Guided instruction can improve outcomes, but it is a challenge to sustain the impacts and to reach the most deprived children.
“Teenage risky behavior and parental supervision: the unintended consequences of multiple shifts school systems” (with Martín Rossi).
Economic Inquiry, January 2019.
We study the relationship between attending high school at night and the probability of engaging in risky behavior, such as having unsafe sex or consuming substances. To address potential endogeneity concerns we take advantage of a random assignment of high school students to daytime and night shifts in the city of Buenos Aires. Using an original survey on students attending their last year of high school, we find that girls attending high school in the evening start having sex at an earlier age and present a higher probability of getting an abortion. We find no significant differences for substance use. Our experimental approach suggests that the link between high school shift and risky behavior is causal. Results hold when we use an alternative sample of alumni. Finally, we report evidence that the lack of parental supervision is the mechanism underlying our results.
“Failing to notice? Uneven teachers’ attention to boys and girls in the classroom” (with Marina Bassi, Mercedes Mateo Diaz, & Rae Blumberg).
IZA Journal of Labor Economics, November 2018.
This paper analyzes whether teachers’ attention to boys and girls differs in low-performing schools in Chile, where large gender gaps in test scores are also observed. We coded 237 videotaped classes of fourth graders, identifying specific behaviors of teachers toward boys and girls. The results show a general imbalance in teachers’ attention and interactions favoring boys. Gender attention gap is correlated with lower scores in math for girls on Chile’s national standardized test (SIMCE). The gender attention gap was also greater in general in classrooms in which teachers had overall worse interactions with students, as measured by the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). The evidence in this paper contributes to the discussion about whether traditional measures of teacher-student interactions really capture all that matters for learning.