Weekly Seminar Talk by Neha Agarwal
November 21 @ 1:30 pm - 2:40 pm
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Title: Fertility Challenges and Divorce
Speaker: Neha Agarwal, University of California, Riverside
Abstract: The bearing and raising of children is a key source of wellbeing for the vast majority of marriages around the world. In the economic approach to marriage and divorce as proposed by Becker (1977), unanticipated shocks during a marriage can have a destabilizing effect on the union. We argue that fertility challenges are one such unanticipated event that should affect the odds of divorce by changing a couple’s expected gains from marriage. Using data from over 1 million marriages across 69 developing countries we are the first to investigate how a permanent change in possible family size brought on by infertility impacts the risk of divorce or separation. We supplement this analysis
by looking at two milder fertility challenges: the death of the first-born child and the birth of a daughter. We show that all three fertility challenges destabilize marriage, with particularly sizable impacts occurring from infertility. The increase in marital disillusion due to an infertility challenge is smaller in nations where polygamous unions are common, suggesting that the presence of another
wife provides insurance against a bad fertility outcome.