Do Spouses Negotiate in the Shadow of the Law? Evidence from Unilateral Divorce, Suicides, and Homicides in Mexico
with Lauren Hoehn-Velasco
Accepted: Economics Letters
In this paper, we analyze whether state-level no-fault divorce reforms in Mexico led to declines in the homicide and suicide rates. Using an event-study design, we find that the unilateral reform had no impact on state-level suicide rates or homicide rates. This finding contrasts with results from high-income countries (Stevenson and Wolfers, 2006; Brassiolo, 2016). To reconcile the differences from the existing literature, we show that intimate partner violence did not decline following the reform. The combined results suggest that in Mexico, women are less able to escape abusive marriages through a divorce.
Wife vs. Husband: Does It Matter Who Answers the Survey?
In the media: World Bank Development Impact Blog
Information on household assets is often used to conduct empirical research and to guide public policy. Practitioners use these variables, because they are assumed to be less susceptible to misreporting. To test this assumption, the current study employs data from poor households participating in Mexico's PROGRESA program. Separately, both the wife and the husband were asked the same questions regarding household assets. The study finds the following: (1) There were major discrepancies in the information reported by the spouses. For example, there was disagreement among 24% of the couples as to the possession of a washing machine. (2) The latter result has consequences for identifying families living in poverty. For example, if husbands were to be asked, 10.1% of households would be classified as non-poor, but if wives were to be asked, they would be classified as poor. (3) The discrepancies observed can be partially explained by careless responses given by husbands. This result is robust to a bounding argument for omitted variable bias implemented by Oster (2017). Overall, these findings suggest that survey information on household assets is not free of misreporting, and that who answers the survey matters.
Is Economic Growth Good for Women's Agency?
[Paper] [Replication files]
This paper analyzes the effect of economic growth on women's agency. Women's agency is measured across three dimensions: personal freedom, participation in household decisions, and perception of gender roles. The data were taken from three samples of a national-state representative survey on women's agency in Mexico. Using fixed effects at the state level, the study finds: (1) suggestive evidence that economic growth enhances women's personal freedom through the industrial and service sectors; (2) heterogeneous effects of economic growth on household decisions, the main beneficiaries of which are less educated and indigenous women; and (3) there is no evidence that economic growth affects the perception of gender roles.
Unilateral Divorce and Women's Empowerment
Edgardo Buscaglia ALACDE Empirical Research in Law and Economics Award
There is evidence that unilateral divorce decreases domestic violence and improves the bargaining power of women within households. Yet, this evidence mainly comes from developed countries and little is known about the effect of unilateral divorce in developing countries. This paper analyzes the effect of unilateral divorce in Mexico on labor supply of women, bargaining power, and intimate partner violence (IPV). Using a national-state representative survey that focuses on women's empowerment and applying a difference-in-differences strategy, the results show: (1) unilateral divorce increased intimate partner violence (IPV); (2) there is no evidence that unilateral divorce affected the women's bargaining power within the household; and (3) there is evidence of heterogeneous effects regarding female labor supply. In particular, married women with young children participated more in the labor market, while married women without young children participated less. Unilateral divorce can be a mechanism that reduces violent relationships; however, it may have unintended consequences for women who remain married.
Girls vs. Boys: Who is Dropping Out of School Because of Bullying?
Despite the rising interest in bullying, there is little evidence about its effects on dropping out of school, and this evidence suffers from the problem of omitted variable bias. To understand the effect of bullying on dropping out of school, I exploit a rich data set of adolescents between 13 and 17 years old from families participating in the Mexican conditional cash transfer program PROGRESA. Boys experience higher rates of bullying than girls, but bullying affects only girls' probability of dropping out of school. In particular, a one standard deviation increase of being bullied increases girls' probability of dropping out of school by 5 percentage points. To address the problem of omitted variables, I implement a bounding strategy and an instrumental variable approach. The bounding and instrumental variable strategies suggest that this result is robust to omitted variable bias.
Families under Confinement: COVID-19, Domestic Violence, and Alcohol Consumption
(with Jose Roberto Balmori de la Miyar)
[Paper] [Replication files]
Evidence suggests that during the COVID-19 lockdown, alcohol consumption has increased and income has gone down among several households in Mexico City. The existing literature relates alcohol consumption and negative income shocks to a greater number of occurrences of intimate partner violence. This paper estimates the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown on call-center services for domestic violence in Mexico City, and documents the impact of alcohol consumption on these types of calls by exploiting exogenous variation in municipalities that prohibited alcohol sales during the lockdown. Using an event-study design, our results show that during the lockdown: (1) calls of intimate partner violence asking for psychological services increased, (2) calls of intimate partner violence requesting legal aid decreased, and (3) alcohol prohibition did not impact the number of calls reporting domestic violence.
Remittances and Domestic Violence
(with Jose Roberto Balmori de la Miyar)
This paper estimates the effects of money transfers sent by relatives or acquaintances, better known as remittances, on intimate partner violence (IPV) for married women living in Mexico. Using three waves of a national-state representative survey specialized in violence against women, and state fixed-effects regression models, the results show that receiving remittances increases the likelihood of IPV by 5.5 percentage points. We document three channels contributing to this detrimental effect on married women: (1) There is a strong association between households receiving remittances and husbands who do not work, suggesting that men exert IPV against women to compensate for the lack of income with remittances. (2) There is an increase in marital conflicts related to the consumption of alcohol by the husband. And (3) there is evidence that remittances decrease women's bargaining power within the household.