No-Fault Divorce at Fault for Divorce Increase

A REVIEW OF EMPIRICAL RESEARCH, 1995-2006 By Prof. Douglas W. Allen and Maggie Gallagher
Douglas Allen is a professor of economics at Simon Fraser University. Maggie Gallagher is President of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy

Between 1960 and 1980, most states in the US adopted some version of no-fault divorce – and the U.S. divorce rate roughly doubled.

Gallagher examined all the empirical research since 1995 that looked at the impact of no-fault divorce laws on divorce rates. She found that 17 of 24 recent empirical studies find that the introduction of no-fault divorce laws increased the divorce rate. Most studies estimate no-fault divorce increased divorce rates on the order of 5 to 30 percent.

Gallagher also notes that couples respond to the increased divorce risk from no-fault divorce law by delaying or forgoing marriages altogether. This might be considered a positive outcome if unilateral divorce merely discouraged divorce-prone couples from marrying. But the real result is that couples are choosing to cohabitate and have children out of wedlock rather than enter into a union that can be so easily broken.

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