The rise of divorce and separation in the United States, 1880-1990

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I use the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series to assess the potential effects of local labor-market conditions on long-term trends and race differences in marital instability. The rise of female labor-force participation and the increase in nonfarm employment are closely associated with the growth of divorce and separation. Moreover, higher female labor-force participation among black women and lower economic opportunities for black men may account for race differences in marital instability before 1940, and for most of such differences in subsequent years. However, unmeasured intervening cultural factors are probably responsible for at least part of these effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-466
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1997


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