The benefits of no-fault divorce

In the past three decades, liberalized divorce laws have reduced suicides among women, sparked a dramatic reduction in domestic violence and led to a decline in women murdered by their partners, according to economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers.

Specifically, they claim, these benefits have resulted from the adoption of so-called “no-fault” divorce laws, in which one partner can end the marriage without the consent of the other.

After states adopted no-fault divorce laws, suicides among women dropped by 20 percent, the rate of domestic abuse fell by a third, and the number of women murdered by their partners dropped by about 10 percent, Stevenson and Wolfers found.

Adoption of unilateral divorce laws didn’t affect the suicide rate of men or the likelihood that they would be murdered by their partners. But domestic violence directed at both men and women declined, the researchers reported in a recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper.

Here is the link. Here is the original research. Here is the home page of Betsey Stevenson; he is the home page of Justin Wolfers. Here is Wolfers’s summary of the research.

My take: I’m all for family values, but let’s not forget that some families should split up.


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