Does Culture Affect Divorce Decisions? Evidence from European Immigrants in the U.S.

Delia Furtado, University of Connecticut
Miriam Marcen, Universidad de Zaragoza
Almudena Sevilla-Sanz, University of Oxford

This paper explores the role of culture in determining divorce decisions by examining differences in divorce rates by country of origin of immigrants in the United States. Because immigrants who arrived at a young age are all exposed to a common set of American laws and institutions, we interpret cross-ancestry differences in divorce rates as evidence of the effect of culture. The quantitatively significant estimated effects of culture are robust to controlling for a large number of home country variables. Supplemental analyses indicate that divorce culture has a stronger impact on the divorce decisions of females than of males pointing to a potentially gendered nature of divorce taboos. We also find that divorce tendencies are especially weak for immigrants from countries with low divorce rates that reside amidst a large number of co-ethnics, suggesting that culture is transmitted not only from parents to children but also within ethnic communities.

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Presented in Session 177: The Role of Cultural Factors in Union Formation and Dissolution