Document Type


Publication Title

Review of Economics of the Household

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divorce, marital assets, equitable division


Family Law | Law


Upon divorce, marital assets in most U.S. states are divided equitably, often with the underlying legal purpose of equalizing outcomes. To examine whether decisionmakers value economic considerations, such as opportunity cost, specialization, and bargaining power, we conducted a vignette study in which we asked subjects to divide marital assets equitably between an employed husband and a wife without labor market income in a wealthy household. Subjects award less than 50 percent of assets to the wife, regardless of her education or the level of marital assets. Men award lower shares but, unlike women, award a larger share to a more educated wife. Equitable division can lead to unequal outcomes for wives who opt out of the labor force. These findings imply that the objective of equalizing post-divorce outcomes would be better accomplished through legal directives that nudge towards equal asset division and assign greater weight to nonmonetary contributions.

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Family Law Commons



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