Essays on Marital Instability, Household Behavior, and Social Policy in Developing Countries

Misty L Heggeness

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The three chapters in this dissertation add new knowledge to the current literature regarding the economic consequences of marital instability and family policies on household behavior and composition. Using newly developed integrated census microdata from IPUMS-International, the first chapter is an empirical analysis of global trends in marital instability from 1970 to the present. Factors associated with the probability of being separated or divorced are identified for multiple countries over time, finding that education and local economic development are associated with marital instability. The second chapter examines the effects of exogenous changes in family policy and administrative processes on one household decision, childrens education. Specifically, the legalization of divorce and family court wait times for divorce are analyzed. Results show that implementing pro-homemaker divorce legislation shifts the bargaining power within married couple households towards the wife, as does the speed with which family courts process divorce cases. The final chapter identifies the potential undercount of lone-mother families when using headship status as a proxy for lone-mother families in 24 countries and identifies characteristics of lone-mothers associated with an increase the probability they are household heads. Overall, these chapters expand the boundaries of current knowledge on the relationship between family policy, household resource allocation, and family composition within households.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Place of PublicationMinneapolis, MN
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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