Starting in July 2012, I will be a Researcher at Mathematica Policy Research in Cambridge, MA.
My primary research fields are Labor Economics, Economic Demography, and Applied Econometrics.
Why Have Divorce Rates Fallen? The Role of Women's Age at Marriage Under Review
American divorce rates rose from the 1950s to the 1970s, peaked around 1980, and have fallen ever since. The mean age at marriage also substantially increased after 1970. Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I explore the extent to which the rise in age at marriage can explain the rapid decrease in divorce rates for cohorts marrying from 1980 to 2004. Three different empirical approaches all demonstrate that the increase in women's age at marriage can explain at least 60 percent of the decline in the hazard of divorce since 1980. Other (plausibly exogenous) factors, such as improvements in women's labor market opportunities and increased access to birth control, largely impacted divorce rates over this period by changing age at marriage. I further develop an integrated model of the marriage market to demonstrate that monotone decreases in the gains to marriage (due to the aforementioned exogenous changes) can produce both the increase in age at marriage and the rise and fall of divorce rates observed in the U.S. since 1950. Finally, I show that the recent changes in age at marriage and divorce are associated with more egalitarian marriages and decreased marital conflict. But the new patterns of family formation also imply a polarization in the lives of children born to more and less educated women. Simulation Appendix
Do Outside Options Matter Inside Marriage? Evidence from State Welfare Reform Under Review
I analyze the impact of the early 1990s state waivers from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) guidelines to understand how changes in options outside of marriage affect household expenditures. AFDC waivers decreased the public assistance available to impoverished divorced women and thereby reduced a woman's bargaining threat point in marriage. Using the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX) and an empirical synthetic control approach, I find that decreases in potential welfare benefits altered the expenditure patterns of two-parent families. Waivers were associated with increased expenditure on food at home relative to restaurant meals and decreased expenditure on child care and women's clothing, suggesting greater home production and decreased consumption by women. Such changes are evident only for households containing a woman with a reasonable probability of receiving welfare benefits if her marriage ended. The changes in expenditure patterns suggest that reductions in a wife's outside options cause her utility within marriage to decline.
The Impact of Legal Abortion on the Wage Distribution: Evidence from the 1970 New York Abortion Reform
Three years before the ruling on Roe v. Wade, New York became the first state to allow all women legal access to abortion on demand. In this study, I determine the extent to which this change in reproductive rights impacted the characteristics of mothers giving birth in New York, their newborns, and these children’s future wages. I first use birth certificate data and a regression discontinuity design to examine the socioeconomic status of infants conceived in the weeks before and after New York’s reform. This analysis suggests that after abortion’s legalization, children were born into families with greater resources. Next, using reported age and quarter of birth in the 2005 to 2010 American Community Surveys, I estimate the probability that a worker’s mother completed her first trimester of pregnancy after the New York reform and thus had access to legal abortion. I then compare the wages of native-born New Yorkers reporting the same age (in whole years) but with different estimates of mother’s abortion access. By allowing women to better-time their births, the legalization of abortion increased the eventual wages of black, Hispanic, and lower-wage workers.