Unilateral Divorce and Time Allocation in the United States

Katie R. Genadek

Using time-diary data from the Time Use in Economic and Social Accounts (TUESA) 1975–76, which covers heterosexual couples in the United States, this paper analyzes the relationship between a state’s adoption of unilateral divorce and couples’ time allocation. Married women in states with unilateral divorce spend less time on core housework than those in states without unilateral divorce, and married men contribute to a greater share of housework. This paper also uses cross-state and time variation in divorce law adoption by including additional data from the early 1990s to estimate the effect of a state’s adoption of unilateral divorce on daily time use. The analysis confirms the findings for women in the 1970s: the availability of unilateral divorce substantially decreases married women’s time spent on housework. The results suggest that the adoption of unilateral divorce law shifts the relative bargaining power within heterosexual married households to women.

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